Scouting The Trade Market: Sean Burnett

Mailbag: A-Rod, Rehab, Waiver Deals, Expansion
RAB Live Chat

Left-handed bullpen help has a permanent spot on the Yankees’ shopping list, and with the news that Pedro Feliciano had to be shut down with soreness in his injured left shoulder, the search only figures to intensify. Yesterday we learned that the Yankees have had some internal discussions about Sean Burnett of the Nationals, and they had a scout on hand to watch him give up a homer (to Carlos Pena) and walk two others in two-thirds of an inning last night.

No relation to A.J. Burnett, Sean has an ugly ERA (5.76) this year, but that doesn’t tell us anything useful when it comes to relief specialists. Let’s break this Burnett down, starting with the negatives…

The Cons

  • Burnett is a left-handed, but he’s not exactly a shutdown lefty. Same-side batters are hitting .240/.316/.420 with just six strikeouts (10.5%) in 57 plate appearances off him this year, which is pretty awful. From 2009-2010, he held lefties to a .230/.293/.362 batting line with 23.9% strikeouts, which is quite a bit better. Still though, the recent performance is ugly.
  • Unsurprisingly, right-handed batters give Burnett a hard time too. They’re hitting .308/.373/.431 with 11 strikeouts (14.7%) in 75 plate appearances against him this season, though from 2009-2010 he held them to a .180/.271/.259 batting line with 18.8% strikeouts. I wouldn’t count on that 2009-2010 performance coming back though.
  • His swinging strike rate has declined for the third straight year, sitting at a below league average 7.8% this season. That helps explain why Burnett is striking out just 4.85 batters per nine innings this year, about half his 2010 rate and two-thirds his 2008 and 2009 rates.

The Pros

  • Burnett is not a typical LOOGY in that he actually has three pitches, which comes from his days as a starter in the Pirates’ system. He backs up his low-90’s fastball with an upper-80’s slider and a mid-80’s changeup, but neither of the offspeed pitches is a true put-away offering.  He does get plenty of ground balls, almost 56% of the time against lefties and a touch more than 50% against righties.
  • Burnett missed the entire 2005 season with shoulder and elbow trouble (including surgery on the latter), but he’s been perfectly healthy and hasn’t visited the disabled list since. He’s only 28 and there hasn’t been a ton of mileage put on that arm in recent years (no more than 63 IP or 73 appearances in each of the last three years).
  • He’s not just a rental. Burnett is already under contract for 2012 at $2.3M, and there’s a $250,000 buyout of a $3.5M option for 2013. He will earn $1.4M this year, about $233,000 per month from here on out.

Burnett’s struggles this year might result in a buy-low opportunity, but what would the Yankees be buying low on? A reliever with limited use and limited upside? That’s not to say he’s not worth pursing, in fact he’ll probably provide more bang for the buck than a bigger name lefty specialist (coughFelicianocoughMartecough). It all comes down to cost, what do the Nationals want in return? I think it goes without saying that I wouldn’t give up much for Burnett, certainly not one of the Triple-A starters (Adam Warren, David Phelps, Hector Noesi, that group) or anyone off the big league roster (except Ramiro Pena). Kick the tires, but don’t outbid yourself. One Burnett is more than enough.

Mailbag: A-Rod, Rehab, Waiver Deals, Expansion
RAB Live Chat
  • Cy Pettitte

    This move is only ok if they simultaneously acquire Alex Burnett from the Twins. Then we can go Burnett for 7, to Burnett for the 8th and have Burnett close it out in the 9th. Soon MLB, all your Burnett are belong to us.

  • bonestock94

    The buyouts are pretty cheap so no worries about the future. It better not cost more than cash considerations or some 18 year old nobody’s heard of.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    I still think they should’ve claimed Jerry Blevins a few weeks ago, he’s not much (if at all) worse than Burnett. I’d pass on Burnett.

    • Mike Axisa

      I agree, but then again 29 teams passed on Blevins, so I assume they know something we don’t. Or are all just stupid.

      • ADam

        So obviously there has been a Boone Logan is doing well enough/Randy Flores ain’t making the cut in Scranton situation

  • zs190

    I can’t help but notice that he’s had a huge drop in K rate this season compared to last. I know relievers are volatile but this is really pretty extreme. There is no known injuries either.

    Rosenthal reported that Yankees want to trade for a LHP that can also get righties out and Burnett doesn’t seem like a fit to me unless there is reason to think he can rebound to last year’s level.

    • MannyGeee

      Rosenthol may have said it, doesn’t mean that guy is available anywhere. Burnett may be the best of whats left.

  • Frank

    “One Burnett is more than enough.”

    That pretty much sums it up.

    • CMP

      Correction: One Burnett is one too many.

  • MannyGeee

    any one do any ‘advanced metrics’ on Burnett? namely, how many Leftys (that he is SPECIFICALLY sent in to face) he hits on the first pitch?

    affectionately calling it ‘Booneing’ a batter?

  • Pat D

    Doesn’t seem worth the trouble.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


  • CMP

    Marte may actually make it back this season and if he’s effective, he would be a HUGE addition especially against the Red Sux.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Step 1: get back Colon and Hughes
      Step 2: get back Soriano and Marte
      Step 3: use the second half to build guys into playoff shape and sort through the depth (both rotational and relief)
      Step 4: try not to roll snake-eyes in the October crapshoot

      • Foghorn Leghorn

        i agree with the above but would add:

        Step 1 (a): get rid of mitre

  • mt

    Given how much dead payroll already tied up in LOOGYs or left-handed pitchers that can’t pitch due to health (Marte, Feliciano) or where we want/need back-up because we have concerns (Logan), I would get a LOOGY that definitely gets lefties out lights out (like Choate) – I wouldn’t be too concerned about a high righty average or whether the person is under contract next year.

    I say pass on Burnett.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Two Logans what more can the fan base ask.

  • Rainbow Connection

    Who knew that Carol’s DNA was so rich with athleticism? Not me! LOL!