Davidoff: Yankees preferred Lowe to Burnett in 2008


The 2008-2009 offseason was all about CC Sabathia, but the Yankees acted quickly to sign a rotation running mate in A.J. Burnett just a few days after landing the big left-hander. Ken Davidoff reports that although they signed Burnett, the Bombers actually preferred Lowe. They just had concerns about his reliance on the ground ball meshing with their porous infield defense.

Both the Yankees and Braves were in on Burnett, offering identical five-year, $82.5M contracts according to Joel Sherman. He took New York’s offer because of the club’s proximity to his Maryland home. Atlanta then turned around and signed Lowe to a four-year, $60M deal. I was actually pro-Lowe back then, thinking that the Yankees needed stability and an innings-eater. Burnett has since gone on to become a workhorse, but his injury history at the time was scary. Since those contracts were signed, the two right-handers are essentially tied in fWAR (8.6 vs. 9.0) while Burnett has a huge lead in bWAR (5.6 vs. 0.5).

Categories : Asides


  1. Brian S. says:

    Wait, you’re telling me the Yankees KNOW their infield defense is bad and they haven’t done anything about it?

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      They’re telling you they knew the defense wasn’t all that great going into the 2008-9 off-season.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      They did subsequntly sign Tex, but you’re buying the whole player. Defense and offense. They could get a bunch of Brendan Ryans and have a great defense, but not necessarily a better team.

    • Barry says:

      Don’t forget that at the time the Yankees were going to have Swisher and Nady split time between 1st and RF and Teixeira was just a pipe dream. Also Cano had taken a step backward in ’08 on both sides of the ball.

    • Steve (different one) says:

      What exactly were they supposed to do about it?

      Get rid of Derek Jeter? Trade Cano?

      • Cris Pengiucci says:

        Yeah, they were (and are) pretty much stuck with what they’ve got due to contracts. There was (and is) probably only one move they can make. They made it then by signing Tex. They seemed to have acknowledged that and made the best of what they had and it work out pretty well overall.

        Now, with Cano, let’s hope they make the correct decision again (whatever that turns out to be).

        • Steve (different one) says:

          Also, we later learned that Cashman had instructed Torre to tell Jeter to work on his defense. Torre ignored this order. Jeter was shocked to learn the organization wanted him to improve his lateral movement, and when he found out, he worked on it the winter Girardi took over. Who knows if that was the cause, but jeter’s defense improved significantly (at least according to the metrics) in 2008-2009.

      • Brian S. says:

        This offseason: move A-Rod to DH and Jeter to third base. And then acquire Cliff Pennington.

    • Slugger27 says:


      they signed teixeira

  2. Robinson Tilapia says:

    I was huge on signing AJ at the time. The hypothetical blood is on my hands.

  3. T-Dubs says:

    Flags fly forever.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I still don’t get this argument. That they won in 2009 with AJ doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have won without him. His playoffs were actually very up and down.

      • Steve (different one) says:

        AJ was a big part of that title. Of course we don’t know what happens if they don’t sign him, but we definitely know they did win with him.

        People always bring up game 5 of the WS, but never seem to mention that AJ was pitching on short rest.

        • Brian S. says:

          He sucked in both Game 5′s.

          • Steve (different one) says:

            He was obviously not great in the ALCS, but he walked off the mound with a 2 run lead. Hughes blew that game. Doesn’t excuse AJ’s first inning, but he bounced back and kept them in that game for 5 more innings. 2010-11 AJ folds like a cheap suit after that first inning.

            I just think the fact that he took the ball on short rest, when Cliff Lee refused to do the same, gets lost in the narrative.

            Obviously I can’t refute the argument that they might have won the WS without him, just as no one can prove they would have. We don’t know. What’s my point? I think I’ve forgotten.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        It’s the “Back to the Future” phenomenom. If you change one small thing about an event, does it even happen?

        If I hadn’t shook hands with AJ at the team hotel by Grand Central during the 2003 WS, would the Yankees have still won the championship in 2009?

      • gc says:

        The only thing we can evaluate is what happened. Not what might have happened. The player they got was Burnett. He pitched well in the 2009 ALDS. In the ALCS he pitched well in game 2 and had one bad inning in game 5, giving up 4 runs in the 1st. He went on to hold the Angels to nothing after that and left with a 6-4 lead in the 7th. If it were Andy Pettitte or CC who did that, people wouldn’t stop going on about hot gutty and gritty they were for holding the Angels down until the offense could come back and give him the lead. Obviously, he was brilliant in game 2 of the WS and the only truly bad game he pitched that post-season was game 5 of the WS. Any way you wanna slice it, taking things for how they happened (and not how they might have happened), AJ Burnett was as big a part of the Yankees winning the World Series in 2009 than any other player.

        • Evan3457 says:

          This, except for the last line. Just my opinion, but A-Rod was bigger for his performance throughout that post-season.

  4. 28 this year says:

    Eh, essentially the same. Burnett cost more but his style was what we needed to win in 2009 so whatevs.

  5. Big Member says:

    Lowe has bullpen experience while Burnett never pitched in relief. If Cashman had signed Lowe, we wouldn’t be overpaying Soriano right now.

  6. Ed says:

    Isn’t Cashman’s usual stance that he doesn’t like flyball pitchers at Yankee Stadium?

    Actually, I’m remembering right now an article from 2009 claiming that the Yankees signed high strikeout rate pitchers because they didn’t trust the defense. We all laughed it off at the time as stupid. We thought they went with high strikeout pitchers just because it tends to mean the pitcher is good. But if Cashman has publicly said he doesn’t think flyball pitchers are a great fit for Yankee Stadium and they avoided Lowe in part due to infield defense, well, maybe the strikeout claim was true.

    • Steve (different one) says:

      Also, remember at this time, no one knew that the new Yankee stadium would play any differently from the old one. Before the 2009 season, I think the assumption was that the parks would play the same. They were supposed to have the same dimensions and they were across the street from one another.

    • Thomas says:

      I remember that article too and it was my first thought when I read the post. However, IIRC that ESPN article said that the fact the Yankees added strikeout pitcher shows they don’t care about defense. In fact, the Yankees were adding strikeout pitchers, because the defense was already bad (not that they didn’t care about it). The ESPN author had the right idea, but essentially inferred backwards.

  7. Slugger27 says:

    i dont get the premise. they preferred lowe, but didnt think he meshed with their team, so they opted for burnett instead.

    so then… they DIDNT prefer lowe, right? they preferred lowe except they preferred to sign burnett?

    • Steve (different one) says:

      Yeah, it’s a fluff piece because Lowe is now on the team. Pretty meaningless.

    • jjyank says:

      I guess they liked Lowe better in a vacuum, but though AJ’s strikeout ability would be better in reality. That’s what I got out of it, anyway.

    • Mister D says:

      Well, you can like one guy more objectively but believe the other is a better fit. Although its a little weird since Burnett was a pretty strong GB guy before coming to NY.

  8. Rich in NJ says:

    Obviously, AJ seemed like a more boom/bust proposition than Lowe.

  9. RocketMan86 says:

    glad we signed AJ over Lowe.

    Better pitcher and teammate than Derek DWI Lowe. A.J. has been an absolute leader on that resurgent Pirates team. Always thought he deserved better treatment and I’m thrilled with his success in Pittsburg.

    Without A.J. there is no reasonable way the Yanks go on that World Series Run in 2009. The haters can never change history and I’ll never forget the glory Burnett’s pitching provided that October.

    • Steve (different one) says:

      Don’t understand the “better treatment” comment. How was AJ treated anything but fairly the previous 3 years? He pitched his way out of town over a looooong period and was given infinite chances to right the ship.

      I say this as a fan of Burnett. I think the split has worked out happily for both sides as I do not believe he’d be pitching like this in the AL.

  10. The Real Greg says:

    Speaking of ex-Yankees, anybody want Melky now?

  11. JohnC says:

    Off topic, but shocking news. MLB just announced that Mekly Cabrera has been suspended 50 games for testing positive for testesterone!!

    • Steve (different one) says:

      Wow, does this finally kill this argument?

      I will say this: unlike 99% of the cheaters who get caught, Melky admitted he was guilty. Credit for that much at least.

      Also, isn’t this the perfect microcosm of why athletes cheat? He was 2 months from a HUGE payday. His career had washed out, why not roll the dice? If he gets away with it a little longer, he hits the jackpot.

    • Short Porch says:

      Well knock me over with a feather!

  12. JohnC says:

    Sorry, meant Melky. He may have just cost himself a ton of money this offseason!

  13. The Real Greg says:

    I guess we know now what Melky did to come back after he was released by the Braves, allegedly.

  14. DERP says:

    LOL at Melky.

  15. JonS says:

    Quick Melky, get Ryan Bruan’s attorney’s number!!

  16. M1kew says:

    Melky Cabrera Suspended For Positive PED Test
    By Mike Axisa [August 15 at 1:44pm CST]
    Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera has been suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, reports ESPN’s Jorge Arangure (on Twitter). MLB has confirmed both the suspension and that substance was testosterone. The suspension takes effect immediately and will cost him the rest of the season.

    Wow – so sad.

  17. JobaWockeeZ says:

    They both suck. Lowe at least was paid less.

  18. The Real Greg says:

    That is interesting. He is now going to be looking to rebuild his value next year. Would the Yankees take a flyer on him to replace Swisher?

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