Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look Back at the Prospects Traded for A.J. Burnett

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

When the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to get a well known veteran starter at a highly discounted rate, the team did not part with any top prospects in the deal.

February 19, 2012 is a day that Pittsburgh Pirates fans will always remember.  This was the day that Neal Huntington officially completed the trade to acquire veteran pitcher A.J. Burnett from the New York Yankees.  The franchise would become forever changed, and the city of Pittsburgh’s passion for baseball rejuvenated.

Last week, Burnett took the time to do an interview for Rum Bunter.  He talked a lot about how he ended up with the Pittsburgh Pirates, including declining a trade to the Angels.  Burnett also discussed why he was so open to coming to Pittsburgh and working with Ray Searage.  Talking to Burnett and seeing his responses brought back some really great memories of those Pittsburgh Pirates teams.

One area that is focused on with the A.J. Burnett trade was the financial side of things.  After the deal was completed it turned out that the Yankees were covering $20 of the $33 million remaining on Burnett’s deal.  Combine his salary breakdown with his performance, and the Pittsburgh Pirates got a bargain.

However, the Bucs also had to give up two prospects in that trade.  At the time they were not considered to be notable prospects, but were young and had time to develop.  In the deal the Pirates included outfielder Exicardo Cayones and pitcher Diego Moreno. So whatever happened to those two prospects?

At the time of the trade Cayones was a 20-year-old left-handed hitting athletic outfielder who had just hist .228 between the Gulf Coast League at Short-Season A.  He did not last long in the Yankees system, as he was then flipped him to the Angels for Vernon Wells.  Overall, Cayones only hit a career .255 and would never make it past Single-A.

Moreno, who was 25 at the time of the trade, was at least considered to be a projectable reliever. Moreno originally signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007 and finally, after years of floating around the minor leagues, made his debut with the Rays in 2019.  He made five appearances and pitched to a 5.68 ERA.

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No matter what the Pittsburgh Pirates would have given up or paid for A.J. Burnett, it would not have mattered.  Burnett performed on the field, changed the clubhouse culture, and honestly, the city’s attitude about baseball.  It just so happens that not only did the Pittsburgh Pirates get a franchise icon in the trade, but they also pulled off one of the most lopsided trades of the decade.