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A.J. Burnett Over Phil Hughes: It's All About The Money

The New York Yankees have six starters for five spots, and basically have to choose between highly-paid veteran A.J. Burnett and younger, cheaper Phil Hughes. Jack Curry of the YES Network said the choice should be simple:

When Girardi removed Jorge Posada as the regular designated hitter and turned him into a reserve on Sunday in Boston, he said he was doing what was best for the team. Posada had not hit a homer since June 29 and had driven in four runs in his last 78 at-bats. After Eric Chavez returned from the disabled list, the Yankees spoke internally about how he could eventually take Posada’s at bats at the DH slot. Now Chavez has done that. Posada is a glorified pinch-hitter, a player who seems unlikely to make the postseason roster.

So what about Burnett’s status? The Yankees recognized how Posada’s unproductive at-bats were hurting them and made a change. It was decisive. The Yankees see how Burnett’s disappointing starts are hurting them, too. They need to be just as decisive with Burnett as they were with Posada. Since Ivan Nova has pitched much better than Burnett, and since Phil Hughes looked superb in his last start, why should they lose potential starts to Burnett? The answer is simple. They shouldn’t.

I agree, but it doesn’t sound like the Yankees agree with Curry — or with me.

”We’ve got six guys who are capable of pitching in a rotation in a pennant race,” Cashman said. ”That’s a good thing. Someone is going to have to go and we’re going to make that decision. But this stuff about A.J. Burnett is worthy of being ripped from the rotation is a bunch of crap.”

Cashman said Burnett, who is winless in his last seven starts, can still help as a starter.

“I think he’s being treated differently publicly because he has money attached,” Cashman said. “So forgive him for saying yes to the contract. If you want to blame somebody for his contract, blame me.

“But the man can still pitch. The man is a starter. He can still help us significantly.”

Cashman can say what he wants, and deny that keeping Burnett in the rotation is about his contract. But, it has to be. Burnett is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA since the beginning of July. Hughes is 2-2, 4.63 in that time. Not great, but purely based on performance that’s better than Burnett. Oh, and throw in Hughes’ 18-8 compared to Burnett’s 10-15 a season ago.

Maybe Hughes really is a better fit for the bullpen. Choosing Burnett over Hughes, though, is all about the money. Especially because Cashman is trying to tell you it isn’t.