The New York Yankees have traded A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here's five things all baseball fans need to know about the deal.
Burnett was a major weight on New York's shoulders, coming under heavy criticism the past couple of years for a range of offenses ranging from letting the New York Yankees down repeatedly in clutch situations, to chewing gum on the mound and seeming generally uninterested in baseball. And he was getting paid way too much, proving unable to produce wins despite the blockbuster five-year $82.5 million contract he signed in 2008
On Sunday night, the Associated Press reported that the Yanks officially got rid of the pitcher, who played superbly for the the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2000s but has since fallen off.
Here's what you need to know about the trade deal:
1. The Yankees wanted to ditch him: The Yankees traded Burnett for two minor-leaguers in the bottom-tier Pirates organization. That's all it took; he didn't have to be pried from their fingers. Despite the fact that Joe Girardi was always quick to back Burnett over the years, and that he had a major World Series game win in 2009, the Yanks split with him without hesitation.
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2. The Yankees got the better deal: A.J. Burnett is to New York what Kryptonite is to Superman, oil to water. He probably has about as hard a time walking down the street as Josh Beckett would. He's that hated. And he's terrible for a member of the best-paid team in the land's starting rotation. Abysmal.
Over his three seasons with the Yankees, Burnett was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA, and he is 121-111 with a 4.10 ERA in 13 seasons with the Yankees, Blue Jays and Marlins, according to ESPN. He's pretty bad, at best, and the Yankees figured out a way to get rid of him without paying the rest of his salary (they will pay some of it, as the Pirates will only pay $13 million of the remaining $31.1 million on his contract, ESPN reported. If you're a Yankees fan and you want to be filled with rage, consider that Burnett has ALREADY been paid $1.9 million in 2012.)
3. The Yankees needed fresh faces: By getting rid of the 35-year-old Burnett for a couple of youngsters, New York is making a change that has been needed for a while. No matter how much money the Yanks throw at big players, the team needed to sign some kids to replace all the elder batsmen in their clubhouse.
From Derek Jeter to Mariano Rivera, the average age on the Yankees is not one of the team's strengths. So with the two minor-leaguers they got, the Yankees picked up a 25-year-old (reliever Diego Moreno) and a 20-year-old (Exicardo Cayones, an outfielder). That should put some pep in Brian Cashman's step.
4. Moreno and Cayones won big: Moreno and Cayones may be the biggest winners in this deal. They were in the farm leagues of one of the worst teams in professional sports, namely the horrid Pittsburgh Pirates. Now they're priming for pinstripes. Even without playing a second with the Yanks, these two kids have upped their credibility and visibility just by being included in the contract when Major League Baseball approved the deal.
With Rivera getting deeper into his 30s, Moreno has a chance to fill the shoes of history's greatest relief pitcher, and Cayones is young and looking for a chance, too. There's nowhere better than the Yankees to prove to yourself and the world whether you've got what it takes to play with the big dogs. If they can make it there they can make it anywhere.
5. The Pirates can use the publicity: Coming off a 72-90 season in 2011, Pittsburgh's fans need something to give them hope. Burnett, who has shown glimmers of brilliance in his career, may be that something. And he may play better in Pittsburgh, as he did in Toronto, as the spotlights on him will be a lot dimmer in Pennsylvania, and he may actually have a chance to relax and focus on his game (without being booed by his own team's fans.) Just don't count on it.