The Yanks have been doing a lot of window shopping lately. They’ve been said to be looking at Damaso Marte, Jason Bay, and Xavier Nady of the Pirates. They’re supposedly keeping up with Freddie Garcia’s rehab assignment. Now we’re hearing, via MLBTR, that the Yankees are interested in A.J. Burnett. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. While the Yanks won’t necessarily make a big move before the deadline, they’re certainly exploring what’s out there.
That the Yankees sent two scouts solely to see Burnett doesn’t mean that they’ll land him. As we’ve discussed before, it’s not likely that J.P. Ricciardi would dish him within the AL East. However, this is a unique case. Burnett can opt out of his five-year, $55 million contract after this season. So Ricciardi, knowing he could lose Burnett at the end of the season anyway, might be willing to send him to whomever bids the highest.
This brings to the forefront a number of problems. If the Yanks trade for Burnett and he smokes the competition in the second half, he’ll opt out and the Yanks will have wound up with a two-month rental. If he sucks it up, not only will the Yanks have paid for a lemon, they’ll be stuck with him for another two years, owing him $24 million. The only way this really works out is if he pitches well and agrees to stay with the team.
Then again, given his injury history, maybe the Yanks would be best served to have him as a two-month rental. We know he has the stuff to succeed. It’s a matter of his ability to stay healthy. And yeah, he’s pitched poorly this year, though he’s done well against the Yanks and the Rays in his past two starts.
Which brings me to another point: Burnett is a Yankee killer. In 53.2 innings career against the Bombers, Burnett has struck out 46 to 19 walks, and has allowed just 17 runs. Since the beginning of the 2006 season, Burnett’s first with the Jays, only Roy Halladay and Scott Kazmir have better numbers against the Bombers (minimum 45 IP). Make the minimum IP 35, and Burnett slides one slot back, to Jarrod Washburn, another guy the Yankees could conceivably target.
No, I don’t think they’ll land Burnett. No, I don’t think it’s worth adding Washburn and his $9 million salary for 2009. But Brian Cashman is certainly peeking into the window. If there’s a deal to be had, it seems the Yanks will be prepared to take it. But I wouldn’t go betting on an acquisition before July 31.