Should Mets Trade Jason Bay for A.J. Burnett?

Should Mets trade Jason Bay for AJ Burnett?

This rumor just won’t go away, and there isn’t much else news to report from Flushing, so we may as well mull it over.

The theory goes like this: the Yankees are looking for a righthanded power bat for a corner outfield spot / DH. Why? Because everyone seems to have forgotten that Andruw Jones was re-signed earlier this winter. Additionally, the Yankees are looking to unload A.J. Burnett, who has been — put lightly — a disappointment. Further, the Yankees suddenly have a surplus of pitching, after signing Hiroki Kuroda and acquiring Michael Pineda. Burnett is excess baggage they are motivated to move for a power bat.

From the Mets’ perspective, Bay has also been a disappointment, and he’s an expensive contract to bear for a business going bankrupt. Though they’re not exactly flush with outfielders, the Mets are desperate to rid themselves of any and every multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. The immediate future is looking bleak, and even if Jason Bay returns to his monster form, it’s unlikely to make much difference in the Mets’ fortunes. Additionally, the Mets have very little depth behind their projected 5-man starting rotation — and a few of those projected starters have question marks. Getting another MLB starter is a distinct need, and there are worse options than Burnett — who might benefit from a return to the National League.

Now the reality: does it make sense for the clubs to do such a deal? It would seem to, considering the above. But let’s look specifically at the proposal from the Mets’ point of view: would the Mets be better off with A.J. Burnett than Jason Bay?

It pains me to say it, but, probably. From a pure entertainment standpoint, I much prefer to watch and root for Jason Bay — even though I believe he’ll continue to decline and play at level that is completely incongruent with his salary. In contrast, A.J. Burnett turns me off. Sure, his electric stuff can be exciting to watch once out of every dozen starts, but there’s something about his attitude and inconsistency that rubs me the wrong way. However, when I look at this from purely an objective POV, it makes sense for the Mets to do such a deal.

Financially speaking, the deal is more or less a wash. Burnett is owed $33M through the end of 2013, while Bay is guaranteed $35M ($16M for ’12 and ’13 plus a $3M buyout for ’14). Even though the Mets don’t have much depth nor big-time prospects to step into Bay’s spot, there are still a few affordable free agent options available and the Mets could push someone like Juan Lagares or Kirk Nieuwenhuis to the bigs for the time being. Bottom line is this: finding a stopgap corner outfielder is rarely a difficult challenge — particularly in comparison to finding a starting pitcher.

Which brings us to the second part of this proposal: obtaining A.J. Burnett. As already mentioned, the Mets have little depth behind their starting five, which is headed by a fragile Johan Santana. Even if Santana is healthy, what are the chances that he and all four of the others — R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, and Dillon Gee — all remain healthy throughout the season as well? Do you know how rare it is for 5 MLB starters to make 32+ starts in one year? At some point, someone will break down — even if briefly — and the next-best option the Mets have are questionable entities such as Chris Schwinden, Josh Stinson, Miguel Batista, and Dylan Owen (we are assuming that the Mets do the prudent thing and allow Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, and Matt Harvey spend a full year in the minors to continue developing).

But there is another factor at play here, and that is tradeability and trade value. Jason Bay will have to make a complete transformation from what he’s done over the past two years to become a tradeable asset. Bay would have to return to being the slugger he was in Boston for other teams to consider giving up prospects for him and/or assuming some or all of his contract. That’s a tall order, and though anything is possible, such a turnaround would seem to be improbable.

On the other hand, A.J. Burnett doesn’t necessarily have to return to being a lights-out 18-game winner to become a trading chip. All he has to do is continue missing bats at his usual 8-9 K/9 rate, get a little lucky, and have a few of those eye-popping outings he normally sprinkles in a typical year. When A.J. Burnett is “on”, opposing scouts drool over his potential, and teams imagine him as a legit postseason starter. If Burnett can be “on” just enough times in the first three months of the season, a few contending teams looking for arms could convince themselves he’s “figured it out” and take a chance on him at the deadline. Maybe the Mets won’t get a boatload of prospects in return, but they might have a chance to rid themselves of all or most of Burnett’s (and previously Bay’s) contract — which is the primary goal anyway.

So that’s my argument: Burnett has a better chance to be trade bait next July than Bay, partially because it’ll be easier for Burnett to appear valuable and partially because starting pitching is generally in more demand than corner outfielders. Ergo, if the Mets can trade Bay for Burnett, they should do it.

What say you? Do you agree or disagree, and why? Answer in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. NormE January 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm
    What would the Yankees do with Bay? He’s not going to play regularly given the Yankee roster and is an expensive bench sitter, especially in a DH league.
    If they want to trade Burnett they could probably find a more useful player to trade for on some other team.
    Also, the Mets and Yankees probably don’t like to deal with each other in case the trade turns out lopsided. Better to make a trade that turns out poorly with a team far from home.
  2. TeufelFan January 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm
    “This rumor just won’t go away” = Joe Janish, and literally nobody else, keeps talking about it.
    • argonbunnies January 21, 2012 at 10:02 pm
      I keep talking about it. Blame Mets Today if you like, but it ain’t just Joe.

      I think it’d likely improve the Mets and possibly improve the Yankees.

    • argonbunnies January 21, 2012 at 10:09 pm
      I think some Yankee fan on ESPN or Metsblog also suggested this idea, but I’m not sure.
  3. vtmet January 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm
    why would the Mets want AJ? and at the same token, why would the Yanks want Bay? Mets already have enough pitchers, and somebody has to play the OF…Bay is vastly overpaid for his performance, but he’s not horrible…AJ is horrible…
    • Joe Janish January 22, 2012 at 12:09 am
      If you read past the headline you will see “whys” proposed by me. Can you detail your reasons “why not” here so we can all benefit and discuss ?
  4. Dan B January 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm
    The Mets need contract relief and Burnett wouldn’t give them that. With the added wild card this year, there will be more buyers and less sellers at the trading deadline. The Mets might actually find someone to take Bay for a low level prospect and minimum salary relief.
    • Mike B January 22, 2012 at 11:04 am
      The Deal saves you about 5 million which is about all you are gonna save dumbing bay, no one is going take on bays 35 millions for nothing. You have a better chance of dumping AJ at the deadline.

      At this point it is tough to love this trade cause Bay is a lot easier to root for but I think it is truly better for the mets, They need pitching and they can throw anyone in the outfield. Not to mention it is a little bit less money and prob easier to get out of.

  5. Brian January 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm
    I’d do it in a second, which means the Yanks probably wouldn’t.
  6. jerseymet January 21, 2012 at 8:26 pm
    Not happening.
  7. DaveSchneck January 21, 2012 at 9:50 pm
    Can’t see Yanks doing it. From Mets perspective I would do it but I would need Yanks to kick i about $2 mil per year for Mets to get another bat. Jerseymet sums it up best.
  8. argonbunnies January 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm
    I like Bay, but we can easily replace his production.

    Burnett is an upgrade over Pelfrey.

    So, doing this deal would make the Mets better in 2012, and I don’t see how it’d make them worse going forward.

    Joe’s idea about Burnett’s trade value is a possible bonus (unlikely, but more likely than Bay).

    As for the Yankees, they should try to see what they can get for A.J., but if the answer is “another bad contract who won’t start for them”, then Jason Bay is probably the best possible version of that. Great intangibles, solid defender, can hit lefties better than Gardner/Swisher/Granderson. If the Yanks can get a starting player or useful reliever instead, good for them, but I don’t see it happening.

  9. mic January 22, 2012 at 3:36 am
    Joe:

    YES

    - Bay. Change scenery. DH, knows AL east. Would probably renegotiate

    -AJ would do better in the NL too. I like the spin where the Mets deal pelfrey and SAVE his 6M.

    As for the other 4 probable rotation options; I think Matt harvey is ahead of them already.

  10. mic January 22, 2012 at 3:45 am
  11. Glenn January 22, 2012 at 4:33 am
    I would not do this deal. Burnett is a head case and the Mets have enough headaches without trading for one. Also the Mets best prospects are pitchers and will need a place in the rotation soon. Joe’s contention that the Mets should leave Harvey et al in the minors all season is foolish. the Mets should leave Harvey and co. in the minors until they prove they are ready. If that’s in May then it’s in May If that’s in September, then it’s in September. You don’t people back due to some artifical deadline anymore than you rush them. When the pitchers in the minors have proven they are ready, then up they should come. I have a feeling that Familia will be the first and it will be by the All Star break.
  12. Dan January 22, 2012 at 8:52 am
    The only way it would make sense to me would be for the Yankees to eat most of both salaries. Since Bay has a full no trade clause that is not likely to happen, and even if it did the only true beneficiary would be the Katz-Wilpons.
    • Brian January 22, 2012 at 9:52 am
      Wait… why would the Yankees eat most of *both* salaries?
      The Yankees wouldn’t consider that in a million years, nor should they.
  13. Brian January 22, 2012 at 9:45 am
    This trade should be considered. I’ve seen this rumor discussed on several blogs but the one thing that nobody has touched on is Bay’s vesting option for 2014. I’m very concerned we’ll be on the hook for it, and paying Bay $18 million in 2014 would be very bad for any kind of progress. The Mets can’t sit Bay to avoid the vesting option without a grievance filed by the union. Considering that, the Mets could potentially gain huge savings from a Bay for Burnett swap. From the Yankees perspective, Bay would be more usable that Burnett for the forseeable future. I don’t think Bay would have trouble waving his no-trade for the Yankees; they give him a chance to win and he won’t even have to move. The Yankees have a legit reason to not allow his option to vest since they would not intend him to be a full time player from the get go, and given the fact that they have better players for the OF spots the union would have no basis for a grievance.

    Bottom line: this could turn out to be a huge savings for the Mets and the Yankees could extract value out of Bay in a way they can’t with Burnett.

    • DaveSchneck January 22, 2012 at 2:09 pm
      Brian,
      There is no way the Mets would both keep Bay and allow that vesting option to kick in if he continues at his current level of production. Alderson would play me in LF before that happened. I think any other team would handle it the same way. The player’s association will have no leg to stand on with his current OPS. I think the Yanks would love to snend Burnett packing, but Bay has minimal use to them. I would be very interested to see if Bay accfepted a deal if something materialized.
    • Unthought_Known January 25, 2012 at 7:44 pm
      Brian, the Mets can absolutely sit Bay to prevent the option from vesting (assuming he doesn’t revert to his Boston level of production). The way he’s performed over the last two years, he’s a borderline starter. If it wasn’t for his contract, he’d probably be a platoon player at this point. The Mets can rest him once a week, especially against a tough righty, and Bay wouldn’t be able to complain.
  14. mic January 22, 2012 at 10:56 am
    well said Brian
  15. newmilford January 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm
    DO IT!!!!
  16. Izzy January 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm
    The Mets might want to make the trade to rid salary via Burnett vice Bay later on, but why would the Yankees want him? They have a better player in left who is their only speed guy in Gardner and in right they have Swisher whi is basically Jason Bay but cheaper. They can’t make him an everyday DH as they need the spot for a rapidly deteriorating ARod and an aging Jeter. The Yankees aren’t a strong partner for Bay.
  17. Jujo January 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm
    They should do it if it possible for all the reasons explained above AND the chance to keep D Wright by unloading as much expense as possible now.
  18. Frank January 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm
    I agree with you 100% Joe which it is why it’ll never happen! Yankees are too smart for Mets and even if does happen the Mets will find a way to screw it up.
  19. Joe January 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm
    I think there is some logic to it but don’t think the Yanks would want to do it and wonder about the Mets too.

    Inter-city trades would probably be seen as iffy in general and trading one overpriced contract for another with Bay something of a question mark is dubious. For their needs, Burnett gives the Yanks enough as a starter. They might want to trade him, but some team out there is probably desperate enough for a starter that they will get more back than Bay. The Mets, well, they don’t need another pain in the ass starter. Duly noted that he might get more trade value, but how much more, really? Anyway, don’t see the Yanks doing it.

  20. Bernie January 23, 2012 at 2:43 pm
    NO NO & NO WAY
  21. John January 24, 2012 at 1:23 am
    I would like to start a Jason Bay for Brian Roberts trade. I think this would help solve problems on both teams.
  22. Pat January 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm
    I think it’s an interesting idea. I have high hopes for Bay to be better than he’s been, although I don;t see him returning to the slugger he’s been in the past, I’m kind of expecting a .270, 24, 95 type of year… and I do think A.J. would greatly benefit from a move back to the NL. I’m just wondering though… you say that even if Bay returns to form that it’s unlikely to have an effect on the Mets fortunes…, but don’t you think normal production from Bay, Wright, Murphy and Davis would make the Mets a decent hitting team? I would think the 2008 version of Jason Bay would be a fairly large boost to the Mets and have a good effect.
  23. Tanned Tom January 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm
    As a Yankee fan I like this swap, and have been proposing it all off season on other sites. Mets need pitching, Yankees need to clear the glut of starting pitchers. Simple as that. Of course Burnett is horrible, but moving to a much bigger park, the non-DH league and a weaker hitting division HAS TO improve his numbers. Don’t expect Halliday type numbers, but 200 innings with a 4.10 ERA seems doable, in other words something closer to his career aveage. I’d like to see someone younger and cheaper than Bay, but if he’s the best deal we can get, he’s welcome in pinstripes. The only reservation I have is that Bay has a no-trade clause, and I’d want to know he’d waive it again if the NYY need to dump him at the trading deadline. But honestly, even if he won’t I’d make this deal. Getting rid of AJ is would be like Xmas coming twice this year.