Indians interested in Hafner-Burnett swap
Posted on: February 14, 2012 2:48 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 3:05 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
While CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports the Yankees and Pirates are still hoping to get a deal done that would send A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh, he also notes the Angels and Indians have tried to get in on the talks for Burnett.
While the Angels are on Burnett's no-trade clause, the Indians deal could make some sense. The two teams are discussing sending Travis Hafner to New York in exchange for the much maligned right-hander.
So does it make sense for the Indians? Perhaps.
Let's not make any mistake, Burnett's not been good as a Yankee and he's certainly not been $82.5 million good. But it's also a mistake to dismiss Burnett as a someone who doesn't belong in the big leagues or in a rotation. The right-hander has enough stuff to tempt a team to give him big money -- in fact before the Yankees splurged on Burnett, the Blue Jays spent a lot of money on him.
Let's get the first part out of the way, Burnett, despite early concerns in his career, has been durable, starting 32 or more games in each of the last four seasons. In 2008, he led the American League with 34 starts and threw 221 1/3 innings. Last season, for all the complaints and even some early hooks, he threw 190 1/3 innings, averaging nearly six innings a start. He still struck out 173 batters -- he can miss bats. He also misses the glove too much, throwing a big-league most 25 wild pitches, hitting nine batters and walking 83.
While Burnett's road ERA was actually worse than his home ERA, he did give up homers at a slightly lower rate away from Yankee Stadium.
Burnett's ERA last season 5.15 -- not exactly a number you want to see in the probables -- but his xFIP (Fielding Independent Pitching -- a measure of things pitchers are directly responsible for, while taking away the ability of his fielders and normalized for his ballpark) was a respectable 3.86. To put that in perspective, that was better than the likes of Mark Buehrle (4.14), Ervin Santana (3.93) and Trevor Cahill (3.90), and not much worse than the likes of Ryan Vogelsong (3.85), Jered Weaver (3.80) and Matt Cain (3.78). His career xFIP is 3.78 -- better than his career ERA of 4.10.
Burnett can add 10 teams to his no-trade list each season, with word that most of those teams are on the West Coast.
It still seems like the Pirates are the team that will get Burnett -- and he should help them -- picking up as little as $13 million of the $33 million owed to Burnett for the final two years of his contract.
The Indians still owe Hafner $13 million for this season and have an option for $13 million next season with a $2.75 million buyout, meaning they owe less than half of what they'd be on the line to pay Burnett. To make the deal, the Indians would likely need some money sent back to Cleveland, if not the $20 million they're willing to eat in a deal with the Pirates.
For the Yankees, Hafner is an upgrade of Russell Branyan or Andruw Jones, the two best candidates currently on the roster. Pronk's not the same hitter the Indians signed to a six-year, $66.1 million deal before the 2007 season, but he's still dangerous when at the plate, despite his injury concerns.
Hafner's home run rate has dropped from one per every 10.8 at-bats in 2006 to one every 25 at-bats last season (and a best of one every 21.1 at-bats in 2009 since 2006). But if he's healthy, his left-handed stroke would work well in new Yankee Stadium. While his power numbers have dropped, he still got on-base at a .361 rate, good for a 126 OPS+.
As for the Indians, a rotation with Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe, Burnett and Josh Tomlin should help in their chase with the Tigers.
In the end, it all comes down to money and just how much the Yankees would take off of Burnett's salary for 2013, but New York may not want to give much if they're taking Hafner's $13 million this season and the buy-out.
The Pirates have some good, young prospects and could offer more future talent while the Yankees could add one of the veteran free agent DHs still left on the market like Vladimir Guerrero or Johnny Damon at little financial hit.
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Tags: A.J. Burnett, AL Central, AL East, Andruw Jones, Angels, Derek Lowe, Ervin Santana, Indians, Jered Weaver, Johnny Damon, Josh Tomlin, Justin Masterson, Mark Buehrle, Matt Cain, NL Central, Pirates, Russell Branyan, Ryan Vogelsong, Travis Hafner, Trevor Cahill, Ubaldo Jimenez, Vladimir Guerrero, Yankees