Pirates Believe In Yankees’ Castaway A.J. Burnett
NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — A.J. Burnett’s rocky tenure in pinstripes is over.
The Yankees and Pirates completed a trade Sunday that sends the much-maligned pitcher to Pittsburgh for a pair of minor leaguers. New York is also giving the Pirates nearly $20 million to cover most of Burnett’s hefty salary in a deal that cleared the way for the Yankees to sign Raul Ibanez.
The teams agreed to the trade Friday but it was subject to Burnett passing a physical, which he did Sunday at Pirates camp as pitchers and catchers held their first workout of spring training in Bradenton, Fla.
Commissioner Bud Selig also had to approve the deal because of the money involved.
Burnett goes from a perennial World Series favorite to a club coming off its 19th consecutive losing season, a record for the four major pro sports in North America.
“Having played in New York, I can say that playing in Pittsburgh is … I wouldn’t say easier, but just the pressure and everything that comes along with it is less,” said Pirates right-hander Jeff Karstens, who also pitched for the Yankees. “That should make his transition here a little bit easier. Anytime you can add a quality arm like that to the staff, it’s going to make us better.”
The Yankees get 25-year-old right-hander Diego Moreno and 20-year-old outfielder Exicardo Cayones, both low-level prospects.
Pittsburgh will pay $13 million of the $33 million salary due Burnett for 2012 and 2013, a person familiar with the negotiations said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made at that time.
Both teams announced the deal Sunday night, though neither disclosed the amount of cash involved.
“A.J. Burnett is a solid, veteran starting pitcher with an above-average pitch repertoire and potential to provide us with significant quality innings from our starting rotation,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.
New York plans to use the money saved to sign a designated hitter following Jorge Posada’s retirement. The Yankees already have been negotiating a major league deal with Ibanez, who spent the past three seasons in Philadelphia.
A left-handed hitter, Ibanez has been waiting for New York to agree to the deal, a person familiar with those negotiations said, also on condition of anonymity. The contract for the 39-year-old outfielder would have a base salary of about $1 million.
Ibanez batted .245 with 20 homers and 84 RBIs last season. His on-base percentage was only .289 but he had 31 doubles.
New York also hopes to re-sign backup infielder Eric Chavez.
The 35-year-old Burnett was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA during three seasons with the Yankees, including 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA last year. After signing an $82.5 million, five-year deal as a free agent, his best moment came in his first year with New York when he beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series.
Other than that, Burnett became known for walks, wild pitches — and pelting teammates in the face with cream pies following game-winning hits. The right-hander’s average of 3.98 walks per nine innings ranked fifth in the majors from 2009-11 among pitchers with 400 or more innings, according to STATS LLC.
Burnett became expendable when the Yankees acquired Michael Pineda from Seattle in a trade and agreed to a one-year deal with free-agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. They joined holdovers CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia in a crowded rotation.
In Pittsburgh, Burnett joins a rotation that includes newly signed Erik Bedard and returnees James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Karstens. Charlie Morton is recovering from hip surgery in October. When Morton is available, Karstens could return to the bullpen and spot starts.
Burnett’s agent believes that the former Yankees bust has plenty to offer to the Pirates.
“I think he’s looking forward to the opportunity to re-establish himself and mentor some of the young pitchers,” said Burnett’s agent, Darek Braunecker.
Burnett already has received $2,062,500 of his salary for this year because the Yankees pay him in twice-monthly installments over the entire year rather than from April to September, which is the major league standard. Of the remaining $14,437,500, Pittsburgh will pay $5 million and the Yankees $9,437,500. Next year the Pirates will pay $8 million and the Yankees $8.5 million.
“When I first heard we were thinking about getting A.J., I was excited. I was hoping we’d get it done,” said new Pirates catcher Rod Barajas, who played with Burnett on the 2008 Toronto Blue Jays.
“With the relationship we’ve had, the fact that we worked together and did well together, it made me feel we can get back to where it was that year. Even after he left Toronto for New York, we constantly had conversations. He’s a joy to be around. He brings good energy. I think he’s going to fit in well here.”
Moreno was 2-4 with a 3.21 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 33 2-3 innings last year during 34 relief appearances for Bradenton of the Florida State League and 0-0 with a 4.91 ERA in seven games with Double-A Altoona.
Cayones was 2 for 32 (.063) for State College of the New York-Penn League and 24 for 98 (.293) with no homers and 12 RBIs for the Gulf Coast Pirates last year.
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