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And you thought I’d have a tough time finding excuses to keep using that photo.

As I’m sure you’re all well aware, a tradition exists in baseball, and other North American pro sports, wherein a veteran player joining a new team must compensate the younger player whose jersey number he would like to retain from the time he spent with his previous team. Usually, such compensation consists of a nice watch or a cheque.

After signing a free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves ahead of the 1999 season, outfielder Brian Jordan gave Fredi Gonzalez, who was a mere coach at the time, a souped up Harley Davidson for his number 33. And when Frank Thomas joined the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2007 season, he commissioned a portrait of Lyle Overbay to thank him for giving up the number 35.

With A.J. Burnett recently joining the Pittsburgh Pirates, Daniel McCutchen and his number 34 jersey had a chance to capitalize on the tradition. The right handed reliever wisely avoided a piece of vanity jewelry and asked Burnett to start a College America 529 plan for his yet to be born daughter who is due in May.

When a veteran comes in and takes a number, some of the guys usually get something. I know he has kids. He asked me what I wanted, I brought that up. Eighteen years from now, we’ll see what the market is.

No. You’re a slow news day.

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.

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Burnett Vetoed Angelic Move

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.

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As the off season winds down and pitchers and catchers get set to report to their training camps, the New York Yankees find themselves in need of a left handed bat off the bench. In contrast to that need is an unexpected abundance of starting pitching on the team’s roster after the mid January acquisitions of Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, which has forced 35 year old right hander A.J. Burnett out of the top five starters on the Yankees’ depth chart.

Given the availability of several left handed bats on the free agent market, presumably at a reduced price this late into the off season, the Yankees are likely unconcerned with getting a return on a trade involving a starting pitcher, at least in comparison with such a move freeing up salary that can then be used to buy a Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui or Raul Ibanez type player.

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Over the last week, A.J. Burnett’s situation in New York has often been likened to the circumstances in which Carlos Zambrano found himself with the Chicago Cubs earlier this off season.

Of course, the Cubs managed to trade Zambrano to the Miami Marlins in exchange for his replacement in the rotation, Chris Volstad. However, such a deal was only achieved through Chicago’s willingness to pay the Marlins $16.45 million of the $18 million that Zambrano is owed for the 2012 season.

After acquiring both Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineada a little over a week ago, Burnett has become extraneous to the New York Yankees, and with $16.5 million owed to him for each of the next two years along with a no trade clause that allows him to block deals to a third of the teams in the Majors, he isn’t exactly the type of extraneous asset that’s easily traded.

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The Narrative: Well, this was supposed to be it. I imagine more than one columnist in New York had a piece ready to print about the awful state of the New York Yankees franchise. However, a certain underrated pitcher by the name of A.J. Burnett shook off some first inning jitters and did just enough to keep his team in front of the Detroit Tigers, sending the series back to New York for the decisive Game Five.

Several members of the Yankees lineup appeared to break out of the mini slumps that mired the early part of this series, and even Rafael Soriano pitched well in picking up Burnett in the sixth, and throwing a scoreless seven. This all led to the Yankees erupting for six runs in the eighth, quickly putting the game out of hand with a score of 10-1.

It was almost the ideal course of action ahead of the fifth and deciding game for a Yankees team that had looked a bit off in its previous two matches with the Tigers.

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Sadly, I’m a day late to this, but what you see in the photograph above is what A.J. Burnett looks like right now. Is he trying to make the Pete Puma comparisons even more accurate?

Since signing his five year, $82.5 million contract with the New York Yankees in December of 2008, Burnett has accumulated 5.7 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs. In 2008, his last year pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays before signing that big contract with the Yankees, he finished the season 5.5 wins above replacement.

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