A.J. Burnett: Did the Pirates Score the Steal of the Offseason?


Much has been written, reported, blogged and logged about the Pittsburgh Pirates keen acquisition of A.J. Burnett.

It is no newsflash what it took to acquire the 35-year-old right-hander…pretty much nothing.

Just a 25-year-old fringe pitching prospect in Diego Moreno, and a 20-year-old (Exicardo Cayones) who hit .228 last year in Rookie and A-ball combined.

With Burnett, the Pirates have secured a front-end pitcher who will finally be freed from the shackles of pitching in the American League East.  To add levity to the greatness of the Burnett-to-Bucks deal, how about a Burnett to Cliff Lee comp?

Sure, Burnett is a full year and some change older than Lee, but he has 408 more career strikeouts and two more wins than ‘ole Clifton Phifer Lee.

Their career ERA’s aren’t too far off either, as Lee’s sits at 3.65 and Burnett’s hovers just above four, at 4.10.

Plus they’re both from Arkansas! Weird. Throw in height, and tattoo count and A.J. Burnett is the clear-cut winner.

Obviously, no one in his or her right mind would take Burnett over Lee if given the option.  But for the price, it’s a no-brainer.  Lee is set to earn $21.5 million in ’12 and a whopping $24 million in 2013.

And as for Burnett?

The Yankees are paying for $20 million of his remaining contract ($33 million) over the next two years, making Burnett arguably the league’s biggest bargain at $5 million this year and $8 million in 2013.

Can you even fill up your gas tank for $5 million nowadays?

$13 million over two years will barely get you a decent closer.  Heath Bell, who took his talents to South Beach and the Miami Marlins, stands to earn $15 million over the next two years.  Who will have a bigger impact on their respective teams in the next two seasons?

Obviously, it’s Burnett.

Essentially, the Pirates have scored a pitcher with front-of-the-rotation stuff for well below market value.   This doesn’t even take into consideration Burnett’s potential impact on stud flamethrowers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.

It seems pretty obvious that the Pirates scored one of the best deals of the 2011 offseason in picking up A.J. Burnett.  He’s a player that can have a positive impact not just on a relatively young staff, but on a 2012 Pirates team that can make perennial 90-loss seasons a thing of the past.