I am going to keep this brief but I wanted to give my thoughts on the A.J. Burnett trade. My original thought process was that he would be a good pickup if his acquisition met two criteria: 1) The Pirates ended up picking up 12 million or less of the remaining money and 2) The Pirates only give up a prospect I’d consider at most mildly intriguing (as you of may know mildly intriguing is a C grade in my prospect grading system). Well the Pirates actually failed to met either criteria but just barely. They gave up 13 million and two prospects I categorized as mildly intriguing. Even at that price I believe the Pirates got decent value in Burnett.
He is not as bad as his numbers the last two seasons and coming to Pittsburgh should improve his numbers. Pittsburgh is a lower pressure situation, he should be facing weaker lineups and he will be playing in a home park that is much more pitcher friendly. It should be noted he pitched worse away than at home last season but I don’t put too much stock in that. Burnett had an unreal 17% HR/FB rate that should definitely drop this season which will also help him improve over last season’s number. Also his xFIP of 3.86 last season was good for 67th out of the 137 starting pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. What that means is that when you attempt to remove luck from the situation Burnett was a very viable number three starter last season. That is exactly what I see from Burnett giving the Pirates this season.
At 35 years old Burnett’s days of being one of the best pitchers in the league are behind but he can still do some things well. Burnett misses bats, throws a lot of innings and according to every account I have heard he is willing to work with young pitchers and does a pretty good job at it. When all the dust settles I think it will wind up that the Pirates got a pitcher who will end up throwing 180-200 innings, striking out just shy of a batter an inning and supporting an ERA just a little north of 4 (I’ll take a wild stab and say 4.18). If Burnett does provide this kind of performance and also helps teach the younger pitchers he will prove to be a good #3 for the Pirates who will help take some stress off the bullpen.
Overall I see this as a good move for the Pirates for the 2012 season. For 2013 I’m a little more unsure but with Correia and Bedard coming off the books the Pirates are going to need starting pitching and even if they do have a lot of young players step up if Burnett performs like I think he will the Pirates should be able to move him at his new rate fairly easily. Bottom line the team is better today because Burnett is on it and since this move should really have no long range affect on the Pirates that is all that should matter.