Bill Madden of the New York Daily News is reporting that the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had a deal in place that would swap extraneous pitching spare part A.J. Burnett for extraneous batting spare part Bobby Abreu. However, because of his no trade clause, which allows him to veto moves to a third of the clubs in baseball, Burnett refused to go West.
In fairness, he is no longer a young man. However, his motivation for refusing to join Albert Pujols and the rest of the heavenly host in California is most likely rooted in his family’s current location on the East Coast, combined with his wife’s rumoured fear of flying.
And so, instead of wrapping up the ugly business of trading a pitcher whose value to the team is unquestionably worth less than for what he’s being paid, the Yankees have been forced to soldier on in trade talks, most notably with the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, with Burnett scheduled to report to training camp on Sunday, the team’s patience may come to an abrupt end before the weekend.
The hold up in moving Burnett seems to be New York’s expectation to receive something more from the Pirates, or any other suitors, than sheer salary relief. Even though he can no doubt find usefulness in a rotation somewhere else, it makes little sense for a team acquiring Burnett to give up anything of value for him. Just as it would make little sense for the Yankees to not exert some patience in any negotiations in an attempt to squeeze said value from an interested team.
However, this failed trade attempt with the Angels reveals what New York really wants in exchange for Burnett: a left handed bat that can be the team’s interim designated hitter until other veterans on the team become even more defensively irrelevant than they already are. The declining talents of Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, both still available on the free agent market, offer far too similar production to Abreu for the team not to be willing to save as much money as they can in a salary dump of Burnett and then pick up one of the two remaining left handed bats left.
And this is what I expect to see happen in the coming days. If Burnett’s destination ends up being Pittsburgh, it will represent something of a small victory for Pirates GM Neal Huntington. Withstanding the Yankees negotiation tactics is no easy task for a small market club, and Huntington and his front office will have won the deal if they end up paying nothing but money to acquire Burnett.
The Pennsylvania Tourism Board may also wish to speak with Burnett and his wife, as they may be the only two people in the history of existence to prefer their state over California.