Revisiting the Burnett-for-Bay idea

Breaking down the payroll, part three
Cole Hamels, Curtis Granderson and the tough choices ahead
(Photos: Burnett via Reuters, Bay via Getty)

The Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda pickups changed the Yankees’ roster situation quite a bit, as they’re now heavy on pitching but lacking that one DH bat. Thanks to a MSM article earlier this offseason, some were beating a “trade A.J. Burnett for Jason Bay” drum a few weeks ago, a trade I called a no-win situation back in October. Both players are terrible and all the Yankees would have done is rearrange some furniture, not actually satisfy a need. They needed Burnett’s innings at the time and also needed to keep the DH spot open for Jesus Montero. Thanks not the case anymore, and now a trade like this actually makes a little sense.

As a pure bad contract-for-bad contract swap, it helps that Burnett and Bay have very similar contract situations. The Yankees owe their enigmatic right-hander $33M over the next two years while the Mets owe their disappointing outfielder $32M over those same two years. The only problem is that Bay’s deal has this horrible $17M vesting option for 2014, which will kick in with either 600 plate appearances in 2013 or 500 plate appearances in both 2012 and 2013. Omar Minaya was good at throwing those ugly vesting options into his free agent contracts.

We’ve seen both Francisco Rodriguez (another Minaya contract!) and Carlos Zambrano waive their vesting options as a condition of a trade over the last few months, and the same thing would have to happen with Bay. If he isn’t willing to pass on that option, forget the idea all together. Pay him the $3M buyout per the contract terms, but he and his contract have to go away after two years. That vesting option is a total dealbreaker if he’s unwilling to waive it. The buyout essentially makes Bay’s contract a two-year, $36M deal, so a straight-up trade means the Mets would save themselves $3M. Given their financial situation, I’m sure that will at least get their attention.

In terms of actual on-the-field stuff, the Mets can simply plug A.J. into their rotation alongside R.A. Dickey, Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee as Johan Santana continues his perpetual rehab from shoulder surgery. Right now they have guys like Miguel Batista and Chris Schwinden set to compete for the fifth starter’s job, which somehow sounds worse than giving the ball to Burnett 30 times a year. The move to the easier league and the bigger park (although the walls at CitiField are being brought in this winter) should help Burnett’s homer problem, at least in theory. The only real issue for the Mets would be replacing Bay in left, though they do have a few kids on the 40-man roster worth trying. Maybe the Yankees could kick in a Chris Dickerson or Justin Maxwell to facilitate a trade.

As far as the Yankees go, the perfect world scenario calls for Bay to DH in 2012 and move to corner outfield spot in 2013. The Yankees could let Nick Swisher leave as a free agent after this coming season and still have a viable replacement for a year, buying them some time to figure out things out long-term and with regards to the 2014 austerity budget. This is all predicated on Bay being healthy and not awful, which he hasn’t been for two years. He’s missed more than 90 days over the last two years due to a concussion (suffered on this play) and an intercostal muscle strain, and when he was on the field he produced just a .325 wOBA and a 104 wRC+. It’s not a CitiField thing either; Bay’s hit .279/.367/.445 at home and .228/.310/.336 on the road during his two years with the Mets. His defense is below average but not as bad as the advanced metrics would lead you to believe; none of the systems have figured out left field in Fenway Park yet.

Just to make this perfectly clear, the Yankees and Mets aren’t discussing a Burnett-for-Bay swap as far as we know. The idea started as speculation in some random article back in September or October, and it’s sorta lingered throughout the winter. Given the drastic change in the team’s roster dynamics, I figured it was worth revisiting. It’s one of those ideas that looks great on paper and makes perfect sense in your head, but in reality is much more complicated. It would be great if the Yankees could shift Burnett’s money around and turn a superfluous starting pitcher into a corner outfielder/DH, but bad contract-for-bad contract swaps almost always turn out the same way for everyone: bad.

Breaking down the payroll, part three
Cole Hamels, Curtis Granderson and the tough choices ahead
  • Thomas Cassidy

    As bad as Burnett has been, I have more faith in him turning it around than Bay.

    • kenthadley

      Agree. AJ has more value than Bay, even if both come back somewhat to norm. And any improvement by AJ makes him a lot more valuable for trade than Bay later this year. Besides, who knows which of the starting 7 will get hurt and we’ll need the depth at SP.

    • Gerald Williams

      I don’t like this trade at all, but I’m wondering… was Bay always this bad? I feel like he used to be pretty good on the Pirates and Red Sux. Have injuries just finally caught up with him or was he never that good?

      • Bean Tooth

        Bay was always a nice player, but never a superstar. I saw him play quite a bit in Pittsburgh, where he was the best player on an awful team. He seemed pretty darn good in Boston, but I always suspected a lot of that had to do with home ballpark and all the talent he had batting around him. He was never worth anywhere near what the Mets gave him. I actually could see him becoming a decent player in the Bronx, tucked in the back third of the lineup and coming to bat with people on base pretty often. I like the idea of a swap.

      • RetroRob

        Since his arrival in the majors in 2003 through his last good season in 2009, he triple slashed at .280/.376/.519 in more than 900 games, good for a .896 OPS and 131 OPS+. He was a good hitter.

        Maybe it’s injuries, maybe he altered his swing because of CitiField, maybe he put too much pressure on himself because of the big contract, maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. It may also be something much more simple and as old as the game itsel. Players age differently. There are many players who were effective in their twenties and fall off a cliff in their thirties. Players age differently, and a loss of just a little bat speed does not impact all players the same. Some adjust, while others have a flaw they formerly could manage exposed to such a degree that pitchers can now exploit it.

        I have no idea what happened to Bay. I don’t feel confident either he or AJ can rebound strongly to their former selves. I do think it would be easier to move AJ than Bay if either team decided to eat a large chunk of their contracts because a pitcher who can still throw hard and eat up 190+ innings will always have value to a MLB team. The same can not be said for a hitter who can no longer hit.

      • Thomas Cassidy

        He was always overrated, but overall a decent player. He was kind of like a Swisher in Pittsburgh, very good but not fantastic.

      • Steve (different one)

        I thought he had concussion issues. Am I confusing him with someone else? Hard to keep up with all of the Mets’ issues.

        • Rainbow Connection


    • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

      As bad as Burnett has been in the first half of this stint, that’s how as bad he is a trade chip

    • UrbanShocker

      I’d rather they roll the dice on Adam Dunn if the Sox would pick up the tab for the 3rd year left on his deal.

  • jamie

    I think this is a good move for the mets only – Burnett has taken the ball every time it’s his turn since he’s been with the Yankees and you have to guess he’d be at least a little better in a bigger park and in the NL – His ERA might go down as much as half a run, but almost certainly a quarter. Bay could be a real stinker for the Yankees; his numbers and health history are frightening. I dont see this happening and I dont think anyone else does either, but not until now did it occur to me that the proposed deal is pretty one sided in favor of the mets.

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    Yikes. Bay’s road triple slash is abysmal!

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      no kidding…i figured the home numbers would suck at citifield, but those numbers are terrible.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    The funny thing about Bay is that I think the Red Sox would’ve been smart to resign him. He played really well in that park. He had a few injuries, but he was pretty damn good. Instead, he chases money and moves to the cursed Mets and now he sucks. Makes the Sox look smart, but I think he would’ve been fine there.

    With burnett, I feel like we’ve seen the worst from him. I mean really…how much worse can someon pitch? With the addtion of Pineda and Kuroda, the pressure is off of him to be a #2 or #3 so just make him the 4th or 5th starter for the next two years and go with it. At worst, you have a back end starter that can give 6 innings each time out which saves the pen.

    I don’t like this proposal but I would swap Burnett for either Soriano or Dunn if the money evens out.

    • jamie

      well… what if his fastball suddenly started clocking in at 89? his homer total would be hilarious. all you’d ever hear Michal Kay say when he’s on the mound is, “and the pitch – it’s a long fly ball to deep center field – that ball is gone! see ya! Home Run for [anybody on the other team, regardless of power]!”

      • Foghorn Leghorn

        AJ problem isn’t velocity…its control and mental breakdowns. He has sick stuff…just can’t harness it all the time. The most frustrating part is that he can be lights out for 3-4 innings and then he just implodes.

        I call him “One Bad Inning” AJ

        • Anchen

          Actually I think unfortunately the time when AJ had “sick” stuff has sorta passed. He has very good stuff now with bad control and is more than just a bit of a headcase. He has a good moving fastball that clocks more in 92-94 than 95+ these days, which is what he used to regularily hit. That said AJ in theory should still be able to be dominant. In fact as you said he is, just that it is inning to inning instead of start to start. I’d much rather see 3-4 in a row of dominant AJ and then a clunker I think than his 3-4 good innings and then a clunker inning (which basically means all his starts suck).

        • Tomm

          Sick? He doesn’t have good “stuff” anymore. That’s a baseball cliche. He is only above average in being a redneck.

  • Mark L

    Maybe Burnett for Chone Figgins. His bat totally vanished but he is an excellent defender at 3B, can play 4 other positions, pinch-run, and would be off the ledger after 2013.

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      How about Burnett for Montero?

      seriously, chone ain’t a bad idea.

      • MannyGeee

        I would be on board for this. as bad as Chone’s bat has been for Seattle, I would be OK with him as a super-sub.

        although, dollar for dollar Nunez is a cheaper option with a little better bat (albeit a liability with the glove… well, not so muich the glove as throwing the ball, but still)

  • THU

    AJ is horrible, but Bay might be the worst player making that kind of money. To get him we’d have to give up someone thats better than him, take on another $3 million and give Dickerson or Maxwell? How about no?

    • Luisergi

      All due respect, i’m not sure if we can call A.J. “better” than anybody when you look at the money he makes and his performance. I know Bay is bad (and rich) too but he would fill a spot in the roster, and A.J. just doesn’t anymore, there is no room in this team for him. I’d pull the trigger on this one because of that.

      It looks like we are losing Dickerson and Maxwell anyway, and it seems they’d be willing to pay 3M for a DH, and i do have feeling (no stats prove or something, and i know Champioship teams doesn’t get build around “feelings” but…) that Bay would be better that a 3M DH FA like Damon, Matsui, The Stick (really??), Kotchman etc.

      A team with a decent 20hr DH (again, just a feeling), without A.J. >>>> Team with A.J. taking the spot we can use for some other pitcher, and lets say Damon. Cause it’s the same payroll.

  • mattdamonwayans

    I would do it, AJ is a known quantity and will probably take starts away from Hughes and Garcia. With our recent rotation upgrades the innings Burnett provides can be replaced fairly cheaply.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    No, if Bay was a lefty. It may be doable but as is no. I agree AJ has more value than Bay. There must be some team that needs a bargain with the Yankees paying about 50% of AJ’s contract. Then invest the remaining money for a DH. I like Kotchman or Pena off of last years performance and as a part-time 1st baseman.

  • thenamestsam

    I don’t see the benefit of making this trade for the Yankees. Bay is essentially worthless. His stats the last 3 years look extremely similar to Raul Ibanez who can be had essentially for free. Burnett is awful, but maybe you can get at least a little value out of him by moving him to the pen. His stuff certainly isn’t what it once was, but he still has enough talent that I could see him being effective in 1 or 2 inning doses out of the pen. Bay just looks washed up.

    • MattG

      Actually, in this scenario, Bay would be acquired with money already spent, meaning he is free (thus cheaper than Ibanez).

      There are reasons not to make the trade. Financials might not be one of them.

      Then again, I do not know why Bay would wave his vesting option. He will get 500 at bats these next two seasons. Why would he essentially say, “I don’t want $14M?”

      • RetroRob

        It will still cost the Yankees $3 million more for Bay than AJ. I suppose if we take the $2 million targeted for the DH and the money owed AJ, then a case can be made that it’s almost equal, although even then it is still going to cost more money.

        I agree on the option. I can understand why K-Rod waived his vesting option since he can envision making more total money on his next deal. I can understand why Zambrano waived his vesting option since there is no chance he was ever going to achieve the results required to trip the option. Bay may very well be confronting his mortality as a player, realizing there may be no new contract and he needs to make as much money as he can off of this one. Yet if he really thinks clearly, he should walk away from it. There is no chance that the Mets will allow Bay to accumulate the required PAs over the next two seasons to trip the option, so why should Bay worry about walking away from something that’s not going to happen?

        • MattG

          Oh, I think it will happen. Put it this way: unless Bay is injured, he will reach 500 at bats over the next two seasons, or the PA will sue the Mets on his behalf. He is not blocking anyone on the Mets’ roster.

      • MannyGeee

        a couple of reasons he would want to do this:
        Chance to play on a playoff team,
        Chance to build his value back up in a better park with a better team around him
        A chance to get himself a larger contract post-buyout than what he would potentially make being shitty in Queens for another year.
        move to a hitters ballpark in a division with a few hitters ballparks, stat padding at its finest.

        Still, fast money first, I bet you he’d never walk away from it though.

  • Granderslam

    I would do it, but I wouldn’t want Bay to be a starting outfielder if Swisher leaves. I wouldn’t mind Bay at DH, but I would much rather have Swish if given the choice for the next couple of years or whatever.

  • Kosmo

    1 year of Carlos Lee, 18.5 mil for 2 years of AJ, 33 mil.Yanks eat 14.5 million. Houston would allow AJ to MAYBE get somewhat back on track which would raise his trade value enough for Houston to pick up an OK prospect come the trade deadline if they so desire.
    If Lee can adapt to the DH role and play an occasional LF NY would add RH power and a decent .280 hitter.

    • RetroRob

      If I understand your proposal, the Yankees would be eating the entire cost of AJ’s contract in return for one year of Carlos Lee. In other words, they will be paying $33 million for Carlos Lee in 2012 (Lee’s salary plus they money they’re throwing in with AJ), and they’ll still owe the luxury tax on Lee’s salary and the money they throw in for AJ, so in reality they’ll be paying $46 million for one year of Lee’s services.

      I don’t see the Yankees doing that, although trying to find a mix-and-match for one year of Lee is interesting.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    as crazy as this trade proposal is, it pales in comparison to the trade proposals on…

    what do those fans drink??? ’cause I want some of it

    • Mister Delaware


  • PinedaColada

    All of you saying that Burnett will build his value back up this year are assuming that 1. He will get a rotation spot and 2. He won’t be absolute garbage at baseball. The bottom line in my eyes is that if Burnett stays on the roster it’s a huge waste of a spot and both Hughes and Freddy will 100% put up better numbers in an equal amount of innings. Keeping Burnett would have ramifications far beyond just him sucking every 5 days.

    • MattG

      Well, if the last two years are a model, he will have a 3.00 ERA on May 10th or so. After which you can trade him for two pumpkins.

  • Granderslam

    I know we’re talking about an AJ swap, but question: does Garcia have trade value for a bat or probably not? (I am aware he can’t be traded until June, but I wonder who can bring back the better return: AJ or Garcia.)

  • Ace

    I think the Mets would reject this because they have to have SOME name recognition in their lineup outside of David Wright and Ike Davis. You have to give the fans even the most miniscule reason to show up to the park. Bay is that miniscule reason.

    • MattG

      I do not believe the Sandy Alderson Mets think this way.

  • MattG

    If only Bay batted left-handed. His wOBA splits in 2011:

    .397 vs LH, .281 vs RH

    This won’t work.

  • Preston

    If the A’s are really shopping Brandon Allen that’s who I want.

    • Granderslam

      Dom Brown, come on down.

      What other swaps make sense for AJ? There aren’t many unfortunately. The only other possibility, not named Bay, would be Dunn. But even that seems a bit too risky.

      • Preston

        Maybe Carlos Lee? Although I’m not sure that Houston wants AJ even if we eat extra cash. I would love Dom Brown, he could break in as DH against RHP this year, and transition to RF next year. I just don’t know what the cost would be. I’m not ready to start selling the farm for him. I think Brandon Allen could be had for cheap (Phelps?), and would be an affordable and effective DH against RHP.

  • CJ

    Start by moving Freddy. Yanks won’t save more than $4-5 mil of AJ for 2012 anyway. It’s hard to come up with trade proposals as it is, the AJ situation is impossible to predict.

  • CJ

    When do the Pineda Kuroda moves become official pending physicals? It’s possible cash has follow up moves on the table for dh or Hughes or Freddy or AJ, based on Pineda Kuroda deals going down same day.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    The category says it all: “Irresponsible Rumormongering”. I would NEVER do this trade. Bay is atrocious and could you just imagine if he somehow kicks in that vesting option? Plus, a lefty bat to platoon with Jones is preferable (according to every other RAB commenter and every rumor out there being reported about what the Yankees are looking for). I remember when people were screaming for the Yankees to go big for Bay (not everyone, but a lot were). Let’s be thankful we missed that boat and avoid a second chance at catching it. AJ stinks. Yes. But, I hate to think of how bad Bay would be for NY. I, personally, think the Yankees need a one-year option at this point for DH. And to keep it year-to-year. I think it is inevitable ARod will have to move to DH almost exclusively (and others will need their half-days at DH too), especially if it’s the only way he can stay close to injury-free. The idea of letting Swisher go after this year and slotting Bay into the OF disgusts me. And besides, we already have our 4th OF/DH in Jones for THIS season. Why would we add another? Now, I’m going to contradict myself here a little, but I think Matsui or Damon are better fits. Yes, I know they are both listed as OF but I don’t see either getting any significant time (or any) in the OF (especially Matsui). They would be brought into DH only, and would know that going in. You bring Bay in and he DHs for a year and then you just slot him into the OF after a year of riding the pine in the defensive half of the inning? That makes no sense to me. Again, I think the Yankees have to look at this as a cost effective, year-to-year DH situation when looking at their overall roster. We’re going to have to go after some offensive, young free-agents done the road soon with a depleted farm not having any viable options to replace aging offensive players as they go. At least, that’s what I think they have to do with the roster they are putting together this off-season. Matsui and Damon are well past their prime, but they do offer something offensively and (beyond the statistics) I think you can’t discount the fact that they are familiar with the organization and the players and have both done well. Worst case, they don’t work out and we waste a few million for one season. And let ‘s face it, I just don’t think the Yankees are going to shell out the dough or field playing time to land Pena. But, trading for Bay does not fix the horrible contract, bad performance situation they currently have with AJ. And if anything, it can possibly extend that bad situation (just not on the mound). Please, keep Bay away from this team. I would rather have to pray on the day AJ pitches than think about Bay on the Yankees. Thankfully, this all again fits under the appropriate category of “Irresponsible Rumormongering”.

    • gageagainstthemachine

      *down the road (typo)

  • Mike Spags

    I really don’t think this has to be addressed until the trade deadline. Whoever pitches the best out of Spring Training gets the 5th spot and put the other two in the bullpen. Let Jones and the older guys take over the DH spot and see what happens. There is always a bat available for rent at the deadline, and you could never have enough starting pitching.

    • Robinson Tilapia


  • Pasqua

    It’s a bad sign for a pitcher when the desire to trade him overrides the mantra of, “You can never have too much starting pitching.”

    In any case, this deal seems to make a hell of a lot more sense for the Mets than the Yankees. With the years and money being equal, I’d rather hold on to the pitcher than trade for the injury-prone DH who might not even outperform Andruw Jones.

  • Ken

    This trade would be a worthwhile risk. We need a bat more than we need AJ. Also, AJ is the odd man out right now so why not take a shot on Bay?

    • Preston

      I fear that AJ might not be the odd-man out…

  • Dave

    How about Burnett for Dunn. I know Dunn had three years left on his contract but maybe the Whitesoc eat one year.

    • Steve (different one)

      I have to think anything that interferes with 189M14 (I’m trademarking this) is an automatic disqualifier. Even if Chicago pays his entire 2014 salary, i think it still hits their luxury tax number.

  • Dave

    How about Burnett for Dunn. I know Dunn has three years left on his contract but maybe the Whitesox eat one year.

  • JohnC

    How much does Figgins have left on his deal?

  • CJ

    With the exception of Dunn, bay Carlos lee Soriano figgins teams would probably prefer to eat salary and move player rather than take on a bad contract like AJ. They would probably be something between Lowe and zambrano.

  • RetroRob

    From this afternoon’s Klaw chat. I’m guessing someone over here on RAB posted the question. (T’was not me!)

    Samson Simpson (Cuban B) Does a Burnett for Bay bad contract swap make sense for the Yankees and Mets, respectively? Yanks need a DH and Mets could use a 200 inning arm, with the added benefit of returning AJ to the NL.

    Klaw(1:09 PM) I’d rather have Burnett. After all, he’s got the same ERA+ as Jack Morris, whom two-thirds of writers who don’t actually cover baseball any more think is a Hall of Famer.

  • Scott

    Sorry to quibble, but I have to disagree with the idea that AJ is “enigmatic”:

    – His problem is completely obvious, not a mystery: he’s an aging 2-pitch guy whose lesser stuff yields tons of walks and homers given his poor command.

    – He’s quite consistent, not erratic: his ERA+ of 82 & 86 the past 2 yrs show him to be as consistently replacement-level (roughly) as anyone given two full seasons.

    • Tomm

      I agree with this Scott fella.

  • Cranky

    Bay makes no sense at all for the Yankees. He costs too much–even more than AJ– and is just not that good anymore.
    On the other hand, it would be a great deal for the Mets.

    AJ needs to be gotten rid of, but it should be done intelligently. Find an NL team with a LH hitter or LH reliever to spare. Throw $16mil into the pot. Get it done.

  • Tomm

    I love this idea. Burnett is worth nothing. He has lost his fast fastball, without which he is certainly on a fast road to being baseball roadkill. Guy can’t really pitch and has no real control. Bay, though, was a Yankee killer when he was with Boston. Clearly, CitiField has gotten into his all-too-concussed head. There is a chance he could contribute.

  • Tomm

    Of course, I would trade Burnett for a bag of potato chips. Anything — except not Adam Done.