Both Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and Buster Olney of ESPN are reporting that the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates have come to an agreement on a trade that will send beleaguered starting pitcher A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh in exchange for two mid-level prospects. The Yankees will pick up $20 million of the $33 million owed to the right handed pitcher.

 

Update: According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, one of the prospects is Diego Moreno, a 25 year old right handed pitcher who had a 2.5 K:BB ratio splitting time last season between High A and Double A.

We’ve been over this several times in the last two weeks, so much so, in fact, that at this point you can be forgiven for thinking that I’m only now writing about the trade in order to use the above picture of Burnett one last time. It appears as though the Yankees attempted to sweeten the pot for Burnett by stalling on the swap, but the Pirates didn’t bite, and now the deal will get done, merely days before Burnett is expected to report for Spring Training.

As I wrote when rumours of the deal first began to come out, if the Yankees were willing to eat $20 million of the $33 million remaining on his deal, Burnett could pitch exactly as he had over the last two seasons (the two worst of his career), and still be a worthwhile addition to a team in which he wouldn’t be blocking a younger pitcher with higher upside from entering the rotation. And this is exactly the scenario that’s played out for him to come to Pittsburgh, a team that has reportedly had Torontoesque difficulty in luring free agents.

With the previous addition of Erik Bedard this off season, it’s not exactly clear how the Pirates starting rotation, which could include any five of Bedard, Burnett, Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, James McDonald and Charlie Morton, will shape out ahead of Opening Day. However, it’s not unreasonable to expect Burnett to enjoy the change in competition that he’ll be facing when he shifts leagues and divisions from the American League East to the National League Central. That’s not to mention the advantage he should enjoy pitching in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, which most metrics point to being more of a pitcher friendly park than Yankee Stadium.

Thinking more about the Pirates rotation, it’s not unreasonable to expect any of the six pitchers listed above to either be the team’s ace or eventually relegated to bullpen duties.

For the Yankees, the $13 million that the deal frees up in payroll is most likely to be reinvested in a cheap free agent contract to one or two of Eric Chavez, Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero or Raul Ibanez, with the preference being for a left handed bat to be added to the roster.