Checking in with Burnett
With various A.J. Burnett trade rumours flying around, it’s time to check in with his quest to achieve Type A free agent status again. In short, A.J. has to outperform his 2006 numbers in these categories to make it:
Why do we care? Because other teams certainly will. Even though you can’t literally trade draft picks, that’s what is happening because it’s pretty obvious Burnett will opt out of the remaining years on his contract at the end of this year. When he does, whichever team he walks on will get a supplemental pick, and a first round pick from the team who signs him – if and only if he is a Type A free agent.
So every start A.J. makes from now until the trade deadline quite literally affects his trade value. Not in the “hey, this guy might finally have pulled his Cy Young stuff together and boy does he throw hard” sense that has sent GM’s hurling themselves like moths into his for years, but in a much more real and tangible one.
In addition to a rent-a-pitcher who teams might be reasonably interested in for the idea he could have a month like he’s capable of and/or shut down any offense in the playoffs on any given day, the Jays are either throwing a first-round pick into the mix or they aren’t. The difference is huge- either a team is taking a huge gamble by sending the Jays a real blue-chip prospect for an mercurial pitcher, or they’re just trading someone who’s ready for a couple of high-end guys a few years from now.
As you can see, it’s still touch and go. Burnett is killing his 2006 numbers in appearances, wins, innings and K’s – but still way, way behind in ERA, WHIP and K/BB. It’s gotten a little better since about a month ago, but is still too close to call- a tough spot to be forced into for either side of a potential trade. J.P. could easily be lowballed and not get enough than he would just holding on to A.J., or some other GM could wind up with egg on his face if the pick evaporates with a meltdown on Burnett’s last start of the season.
A.J. has finished strong the last couple of years, but then there was the Marlins debacle the year before when he lost his last 6 starts and was told to go home before the season was over. All personal feelings of disappointment aside, do you gamble on or against A.J. with a first-round pick hanging in the balance?