Pirates, Yankees discuss possible deal for A.J. Burnett
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Talks between the Pirates and New York Yankees regarding a trade that would bring Yankees starter A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh were moving forward Friday evening, according to an industry source.
First baseman/right fielder Garrett Jones, previously reported as a player the Yankees wanted to acquire in the deal, was not part of the discussions, the source said.
It seems the Pirates prefer to assume more of Burnett's salary rather than part with players from their organization. Burnett will earn $33 million over the next two years, the final seasons of a five-year, $82.5 million contract he signed before the 2009 season. The Pirates agreed to pay $10 million of the $33 million owed to Burnett, according to a CBS Sports report.
If the Pirates pay $5 million a year toward Burnett's salary, their 2012 estimated 40-man roster payroll could reach $50 million.
The Pirates have tried to upgrade their rotation this offseason. They offered free-agent starter Edwin Jackson one-year and three-year contracts, according to a Fox Sports report, before Jackson signed a one-year contract with the Washington Nationals.
Burnett, 35, became expendable when the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda and signed Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees have at least seven starters, including Burnett, in the mix for a spot in the rotation.
Burnett had an 11-11 record with a 5.15 ERA in 2011 and struggled in the second half of the season. He has made at least 32 starts in each of the past four seasons and has a career strikeout rate of 8.2 per nine innings.
According to Fox Sports, Burnett has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block trades to 10 teams, but the Pirates are not on the list.
Acquiring a starting pitcher would force the Pirates to adjust their current rotation, which projects to include Jeff Karstens, Erik Bedard, Charlie Morton, Kevin Correia and James McDonald. They could move Karstens to the bullpen, a role he filled in the past, but Karstens was one of the best pitchers in the National League for a part of '11. He finished 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA, though he skipped starts due to fatigue.
Burnett's durability would help a staff that struggled in that area last season. In addition to Karstens, Morton skipped starts due to fatigue and had surgery in October to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He and pitching coach Ray Searage recently said he was ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, but he might not be ready for opening day. After the early struggles McDonald had returning from an abdominal injury in spring training in '11, the Pirates likely will be cautious with Morton.
McDonald had trouble pitching deep into games at times, Correia ended the season on the disabled list because of a strained oblique and Bedard, a free-agent acquisition, has a history of injuries.
The Yankees want to trade Burnett to clear payroll so they can sign a left-handed designated hitter. They also want to reduce their payroll below the luxury tax threshold of $189 million by '14, according to reports, so they can avoid a 50 percent tax on the overage and be treated as first-time offenders if they exceed the threshold again.
First Published February 11, 2012 12:00 am