Kevin Russo is one of six finalists for this year’s Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award in the Arizona Fall League. The award was created to honor the late Dernell Stenson, an ex-Reds & Red Sox prospect who was murdered during a car jacking while playing in the AzFL back in 2003, and is given to the player who best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work and leadership. The winner of the league’s most prestigous award will be announced prior to tonight’s Peoria-Scottsdale game. · (1) ·
We began the day with A.J. Burnett, and we’ll end with the day with him. Courtesy of the soon-to-be-on-vacation (but more on that tomorrow) Kat O’Brien comes a debunking of the A.J. Burnett rumor and news about another team’s interest.
The Yankees still are preparing a formal offer for righthanded pitcher A.J. Burnett, a club official said yesterday, but the Red Sox have become serious competitors to land him.
The Red Sox’s pursuit of Burnett complicates the Yankees’ plans. A source close to Burnett said that a half-dozen teams are in contention for his services: the Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Braves, Phillies and Orioles. The Red Sox, the source said, have significantly increased their involvement in the pitcher in the past 36 hours and are now “fully engaged.”
The Blue Jays already have offered a four-year, $54-million deal to retain Burnett, according to the Toronto Star. The Yankees’ offer is expected to top the Blue Jays’ in average annual value. However, a source shot down a report that the Yankees would offer five years and $80 million. They will not make an opening bid of more than four years or anywhere near $80 million, the source said.
The Yankees’ source said, “We’re just talking parameters.”
That’s a lot to digest. Take it all in.
First, the good news. The Yankees don’t seem to be offering Burnett that ludicrous five-year, $80-million offer reported this morning. As any sensible team would do, the Yanks don’t want to extend a pitcher, 32 on Opening Day, more than four years. While O’Brien’s source said the deal wasn’t for anything close to $80 million, I wouldn’t be surprised at a four-year deal with the same average annual value of $16 million per season.
Now, the guardedly bad news. The Red Sox seem to be interested in Burnett and are supposedly very involved. Now, I’m on the fence with regards to A.J. Burnett. I think he’ll be wildly overpaid, and based on his track record, he probably won’t avoid the DL during the duration of the contract he is going to sign.
But at the same time, we saw this year what a healthy Burnett could do. He struck out better than a man an inning, and during the second half, he went 8-2 with a 2.86 ERA. In 14 starts, he went 94.1 innings and struck out 105 while walking 29. No one on the Yankees did that this year.
He has the stuff to be an ace. He doesn’t have the consistency or the health to be a dependable starter. But that doesn’t mean I want to see him land in Boston. Yanks GM Brian Cashman has a plan this off-season. I hope that plan doesn’t include watching the Red Sox get better as the Yanks come up empty and have to settle for a Derek Lowe type. As tentative I am of embracing Burnett, he’s clearly the second-best option out there.
I mean, seriously. These open threads are tough to write when the hot stove is running ice cold. Four years and $52M for Ryan Dempster? The D-Bags are interested in Ramon Vazquez? Yawn me. We had our fun with the “perhaps” 5/80 offer to AJ Burnett this morning, and there’s really nothing kooky about the AL MVP voting, except for an extraneous 5th place vote for Jason Bartlett. We need some hardcore hot stove talk, either that or AzFL games on TV.
Here’s your open thread for the evening, talk whatever you like. Hopefully something exciting will go down tomorrow, and until then listen to sound the ball makes off the bat of Bryce Harper. Only three years until he graduates high school.
Scott Boras must be getting desperate.
Over the weekend, the Boston Herald ran a story alleging Yankee interest in Jason Varitek. Michael Silverman wrote:
A $50 million contract worth some $13 million a year is not in the offing for Varitek. It should require something closer to a two- to four-year deal worth $10-11 million a year to sign Varitek. He is coming off a four-year, $40 million deal.
Teams expected to be in on the bidding include the Tigers and Angels. Do not dismiss the chances of the Yankees going after Varitek as doubt remains about whether Posada’s shoulder, surgically repaired last season, will allow him to catch in 2009. . . .
I dismissed this one. I figured that either Silverman was trying to rile up Red Sox fans or that Boras was attempting to scare the team into believing that someone might actually be interested in Varitek.
Today, I realized it was the latter as the Boras machine ramped up its work. Playing off of a post by Curt Schilling, Ken Rosenthal attempted to excuse Varitek’s bad 2008 by pointing to a divorce and a viral infection that went unreported for the entire duration of the season.
Meanwhile, Rosenthal drops this gem: “The impact of Varitek’s defense and leadership is not measurable. Nor is the impact of his physical and emotional difficulties last season.”
The impact of Varitek’s defense and leadership may not be measurable, but that’s a point up for grabs. What is measurable is the fact that he hit .220/.313/.359 in nearly 500 plate appearances. What is measurable is that he’s shown a fairly significant decline since his career years in 2004 and 2005. What is measurable is that, as a catcher turning 37 a few days after Opening Day, time and history are not on Varitek’s side.
Now, I’m in no position to comment on Varitek’s unreported injuries. Maybe he actually was injured, and maybe the Red Sox and the Boston media managed to miss that fact for an entire season. Or maybe Varitek, his friends and agent are trying to portray his grit and leadership as the defining characteristics in the hope that some team will give him a woefully overvalued contract.
But no matter the truth, I don’t want to see Varitek anywhere near the Yankees. He’s old; he’s pretty useless from an on-field perspective; and he’s one of the few Red Sox I actively would not root for were he to end up in the Bronx. The Yanks don’t need him; they don’t want him; and they have more pressing needs on which they plan to spend.
Yup. Dustin Pedroia is your AL MVP. As much as we don’t like him, Pedroia is a pretty good choice for the award. He had a truly outstanding offensive season at a position not known for its offense. And he’s short and gritty too.
But what is shocking are the other MVP votes. Someone with an MVP vote believed Jason Bartlett (.286/.329/.361 in 494 PAs) to be the fifth most valuable player in the league; someone else ranked Raul Ibañez tenth; one person awarded his first place vote to Francisco Rodriguez who wasn’t even one of the top relievers. Somehow, Justin Morneau finished second. It’s been a bad year for awards voting that makes sense. · (118) ·
In the a post summarizing this morning’s ridiculous Yankee developments, MLB Trade Rumors points us to an Andy Pettitte story. Apparently, Pettitte’s agent is still demanding $16 million a year for Pettitte’s services. I’m not too keen on bringing Pettitte back. While he is a valuable lefty, at 36 this year, he showed some major signs of slowing down and couldn’t get batters out during the second half of the year. I could see bringing Pettitte back for $10 million or maybe $12 million, but a $16 million offer just seems like a deal to which the Yanks wouldn’t — and perhaps shouldn’t — agree. · (74) ·
If there’s one site you can’t miss during the off-season, it’s MLB Trade Rumors (though I’m sure you all know that). Tim works his ass off to create a place where you can find on what’s going on with the Hot Stove. This morning when I checked the site, I saw the top item on his Yankees Rumors post: The Yankees are preparing “perhaps” a five-year, $80 million deal for A.J. Burnett. Thankfully I hadn’t eaten yet, else I would have wretched all over my keyboard.
Unlike some on this site, I’m not unequivocally opposed to signing Burnett. The guy has some lightning stuff, and if healthy could provide a solid boost to the rotation, at least in the first couple years of the deal. However, we’re talking five years here, and a massive amount of money. If this rumor is true, I have little doubt Burnett will find a better offer, meaning we’d be stuck with him for half a decade.
Thankfully, this rumor comes to us from He Who Shall Not Be Named, so we can take it with a grain of salt. In fact, his use of the word “perhaps” preceding the contract figure suggests that, like many of his other rumors, he is just making this up. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all. So “perhaps” we can rest assured that the Yankees aren’t going to make an offer of this magnitude.
At least Jon Heyman admits he’s guessing when he predicts a five-year, $75 million offer for Burnett. This doesn’t make the rumor more legit, really, as it’s just a guess. Still, we now have two guys close to the Yanks saying they’re going to offer A.J. Burnett a five-year deal. This is not good.
First, this, if anything, is overbidding. The Blue Jays offered four years at $54 million. A.J. is not CC. You don’t have to blow him out of the water. So why go an extra year at freaking $26 million more than the Jays? That seems a bit absurd at this point in the off-season for a pitcher of Burnett’s caliber.
Speaking of his skills, let’s talk about the risk of offering the dude a five-year deal. We know he has electric stuff, but he’s gone over 200 innings just three times in his career. One was six years ago. One was his contract year. The other was, well, another contract year. Granted, he’s pitched fairly well in almost every season, save for his 23 innings in 2003 — which, incidentally, was on the heels of his first 200-inning season. He then pitched 120 in 2004 before pitching 209 in 2005, only to drop back off to 135 in 2006.
The Yankees need guys who will eat innings. Joba won’t be able to pitch a full season. Nor will Hughes. As it stands right now, they have one pitcher who can give them over 200 inning, and he’s coming off a foot injury. With so many question marks in the rotation, why add another one with Burnett? If the Yankees offer is true, I can’t see any team topping it. And that would mean we’re stuck with him.
A few months after the Yankees’ unceremonious loss to the Angels in the 2002 playoffs, The Onion, the nation’s finest satirical news source, ran one of their better sports articles. “Yankees Ensure 2003 Pennant By Signing Every Player in Baseball” screamed the headline. Kat O’Brien’s latest for Newsday could almost be that article, except Kat is dead serious.
The Yankees have expressed strong interest in righthanded pitchers Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett in the past couple of days, according to sources familiar with the talks, after offering ace lefty CC Sabathia a contract in the ballpark of six years and $140 million…
Although pitching is the Yankees’ priority, and they traded for first baseman/outfielder Nick Swisher last week, a source said the Yankees have expressed an interest in first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Gold Glover is, with Manny Ramirez, the top free-agent offensive player available. The Yankees might simply be trying to drive the price up for the Red Sox and Angels by indicating interest in Teixeira, or they could be hedging their bets in case something falls through on the pitching front and they have money to spend.
So based on O’Brien’s sources, the Yanks have contacted every top free agent except for Manny Ramirez in the last few days. I wonder when Manny gets his phone call.
Meanwhile, these unnamed sources also answered Joe’s overnight query. CC is reportedly “mulling things over” while in Houston this weekend. As the Yankees turn, so baseball turns. The dominoes, I predict, won’t fall until someone signs with the Yankees first. So we wait.
You know how yesterday morning I mentioned how it was perfectly normal that we hadn’t heard anything about CC’s response to the Yankees offer? Turns out, we didn’t hear back because the dude was booked solid. And we probably didn’t hear back today because he was freakin’ exhausted.
First, let’s start with Jon Heyman’s guy, who says that Sabathia was “in Las Vegas over the weekend participating in a [golf] and poker tournament for sports stars.” Hey, the guy’s got money to burn. Unfortunately, I was not able to find the results of this tournament. According to this dude, Sabathia is no good at poker.
CC must have been flying this weekend, because Peter Gammons has word that he was in Houston attending a high school football game. Fellow free agents Adam Dunn and Orlando Hudson were also supposedly present, along with “other friends.” I’m guessing these friends who won’t be signing multimillion-dollar contracts this winter.
Kat O’Brien spoke to “someone close to the lefty” and found out that he was at a wedding. I wonder if this wedding was in Houston or Las Vegas. Ken Davidoff says that Sabathia “took the weekend off to chill out with friends and family,” but how mich chillin’ can you do if you’ve always got a flight to catch?
I ran across a few business-of-baseball related stories that I found interesting. They’re not Yankee-related, but perhaps you’ll like them too…
- While CitiGroup is going to wind up cutting 52,000 jobs over the next few months, the Mets are claiming that the stadium naming deal is safe for now. Citi has contracted with the Mets to pay $20 million annually for the next twenty years for the rights to name the team’s new club. We’ll see how much of the $400 million payout the beleaguered financial institution can make. I wonder if a naming rights deal is the best use of the bank’s government bailout fund.
- The SEC levied some insider trading charges against Mark Cuban today, and that will probably be the final nail in the coffin containing his bid to buy the Cubs. The MLB owners have long resisted allowing Cuban into their exclusive club, and this development gives them the perfect excuse to turn him down. Sam Zell would do well to hold onto the club until the economy improves a bit.
- The AL Champion Rays, despite finishing 26th in attendance in 2008, plan to raise ticket prices for next season. As questions have emerged about the long-term viability of baseball in the Tampa area, it will be interesting to see how potential fans react to the higher ticket prices.