Nice knowing you, A.J. Burnett.
The wildly inconsistent veteran pitcher was officially traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday after days of reports signaling the deal as all but done. The trade was agreed to Friday, but the finalization was pending Burnett's physical, which he took Sunday at Pirates camp as pitchers and catchers held their first workout in Bradenton, Fla.
Looking to stabilize a starting rotation weakened by Burnett's erratic performances and second-half swoons, the Yankees placed the veteran right-hander on the trading block for the majority of the offseason. After several weeks of blowing in the proverbial trade winds, the Yanks sent Burnett to the Pirates in exchange for two prospects, 25-year-old right-hander Diego Moreno and and 20-year-old outfielder Exicardo Cayones. Both are considered low-level prospects, though Pittsburgh is reportedly paying $13 million of the $31.1 million remaining on Burnett's contract.
"A.J. Burnett is a solid veteran starting pitcher with an above average pitch repertoire and potential to provide us with significant quality innings from our starting rotation," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement released by the team.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman declined to comment on Burnett's tenure in New York Sunday, saying he would instead do so Monday.
"Believe me, it won't be a bash," he said.
Cashman originally signed Burnett to a five-year, $82.5 million contract before the 2009 season. That first year was Burnett's best in pinstripes, as he finished 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA on a team that went on to win the World Series. Burnett's best moment in the Bronx also came that year in Game 2 of the Fall Classic, as he out-dueled Philadelphia Phillies starter Pedro Martinez in a 3-1 win that evened the series at 1-1.
Burnett's inconsistency quickly emerged into a significant problem for the Yankees, however. In 2010, Burnett finished 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA. The following year, he was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA.
Burnett particularly struggled in the second halves of his three seasons in New York. Over the past two Augusts, Burnett was 1-6 with a 9.56 ERA.
Elsewhere in the Yankees rotation, ace CC Sabathia reported to camp Sunday saying he had lost 10-15 pounds over the offseason. After Sabathia's weight seemed to blossom in the second half of last season as his performance dipped, Cashman, manager Joe Girardi and head trainer Steve Donahue met with the veteran lefty in October to discuss the issue.
"I can't tell you it did or didn't (affect Sabathia)," Cashman said. "I just know we thought it was important enough to have the conversation because obviously in the second half he got bigger after the All-Star break."
Some more links and notes from the first day of spring training:
"I have a professional life and a personal life, and I will continue to do the job to the best of my ability like I always have," said Cashman, who called the last few weeks of his life "difficult."
Throughout the offseason, Cashman's personal life has provided a not-so-pleasant undercurrent to the Yankees' offseason. After his marriage collapsed due to an affair with Louise Meanwell, a British woman with a history of harassing her exes, Cashman has had to face several questions he probably would prefer to avoid. Meanwell is currently locked up in Rikers Island after being caught up in what the Post termed a "stalking-and-shakedown sex mess."
"For all of our sakes, we just have to be careful for him and for us," Cashman said. "It was a huge loss when we lost him last year and it will be a huge gain when we get him this year. We just have to make sure that when we get him back, he is here to stay."
Joba Chamberlain's rehab from Tommy John surgery is reportedly going according to plan, though Cashman said the righty reliever won't be back until June at the earliest. Yankees fans can take heart, however, in knowing that Chamberlain has been diligent in working his way back to earning what could be a valuable spot out of the bullpen.
"If you want to have a scale from 1-to-10 with 10 being the best with someone fully committed to doing the rehab and not cutting any corners and doing everything done that he needs to do, he checked off at the highest level of that scale," Cashman said. "That still doesn't erase the typical time-frame of this surgery."
"You don't get a young kid like Pineda with an arm like that every day," Rothschild said upon getting his initial look. "Just seeing him (last week), he can spin the ball pretty well. He's a young guy with a big upside."
When the Yankees traded top prospect Jesus Montero for Seattle Mariners righty Michael Pineda, the deal was widely asserted as a boon for both teams. New York received a remarkably promising young pitcher with the potential to develop into a future ace, while Seattle gained a player widely perceived to be among the top up-and-coming players in the league.
While Pineda might not necessarily be pegged as the No. 2 starter as many expected, he has earned raves for a fastball that reaches 94 miles per hour and a devastating slider that carried him to a 9-10 rookie season and a 3.74 ERA. Pineda made 28 starts last year, and while his ERA was lower in the first half of the season, his 9.11 strikeouts per nine innings stood out as a sign of his immense talent.
Only 23 years old, Pineda has earned comparisons to the Yankees' current ace, Sabathia, because of his size. Pineda is listed at 6-foot-7, 280 pounds, and as The Star Ledger's Marc Carig writes, his size is the undeniable first impression he leaves.
At age 14, before anybody could imagine that someday he'd pitch for the Yankees, his frame already stretched out to a lanky 6-2. At age 16, it was decided his powerful arm was being wasted in the infield, and that his future would be as a pitcher. He'd sign his first contract with the Seattle Mariners less than a year later.
Mariano Rivera was the only pitcher or catcher to not report Sunday, though as any half-sane Yankee fan would say, he's earned the right.
At the Baseball Writers dinner last month, Mariano Rivera sidled up to Yankees GM Brian Cashman and whispered in his ear.
"He said, 'Cash, I want to give you a heads up, I might be a little late,'" Cashman said. "Just tell me when you are coming. What am I going to do? It's Mariano Rivera."
Cashman expressed zero concern about Rivera's reporting date, calling the 42-year-old legend the No. 1 story in his tenure as Yankees' general manger.
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