In A.J. Burnett‘s first season in New York, we know all to well what the end result was for the Yankees. Burnett wasn’t lights-out, but he pitched well enough for the Yankees to win their first World Series since 2000, victimizing our Phillies.
The next two seasons, the Yankees struggled to get back to that point, largely due to the fact that Burnett didn’t give them enough stability at the top of their rotation, like he was being paid to do. CC Sabathia was still in his prime, but after a second consecutive season of posting an ERA north of five in 2011, it was evident that Burnett’s Yankees career was over. His MLB career, in general, looked like it was coming to a screeching halt.
As we know, Burnett would revive his career over the course of the next two seasons with the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates, before earning a $16 million deal with the Phillies for 2014 (that has numerous club and player options for 2015).
In his 2014 season, Burnett got off to a fast start in April before struggles in May and early June saw his ERA climb over four. Burnett has since seen his ERA drop to 3.92, but is pitching far from a $16 million level.
It isn’t that him not pitching at that level is much of a surprise, or that teams wouldn’t be willing to pick up a majority of his salary for the rest of the season if it meant a better chance to win, but his $7.5 million player option for 2015, which can’t be declined by the club, will scare some teams who otherwise would have had interest in the veteran. Burnett also has a partial no-trade clause, that he could use to control where he’s traded and to try to force teams to exercise the $15 million club-option that is in his contract for next season.
I don’t know if the Yankees are scared off by Burnett’s contract or his past history in New York, but as they look to improve their rotation, Burnett doesn’t appear to be a serious option for the Bronx Bombers, according to the New York Post’s George King III.
The Phillies would move A.J. Burnett, but the Yankees don’t have a strong interest in bringing back the right-hander.
King also doesn’t seem to think that the Yankees would have interest in Cliff Lee, at least not before the July 31st trade-deadline, and Cole Hamels seems like a longshot, in my mind. If it wasn’t for his past history in New York or his contract status, Burnett might make the most sense for the Yankees, if they feel like adding just Brandon McCarthy isn’t enough to solidify their rotation. But his trade candidacy does come with those two caveats, which almost assuredly means that the Yankees won’t pursue Burnett.
The money aspect may mean that no one seriously has interest in Burnett.
I think the Phillies could agree that they will eat some of Burnett’s salary for the remainder of the season, and agree to eat some of Burnett’s salary if he chooses to pitch next year, but what would they gain out of doing that? No matter what, they aren’t going to get any substantial return for a late-30′s pitcher who is underperforming, so if they don’t get salary relief, why not just hold onto Burnett for 2015? Maybe he retires and this becomes a moot point, or maybe he comes back and make s $7.5 million. I struggle to think that the Phillies would have a better contingency plan for Burnett that makes the same amount or less money, and it isn’t exactly like they even have minor-league options ready to replace Kyle Kendrick or Roberto Hernandez, let alone Burnett.