Should Mets Trade Jason Bay for A.J. 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.
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.
I think it’d likely improve the Mets and possibly improve the Yankees.
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.
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.
– 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.
Precursor to a trade for DW?
The Yankees wouldn’t consider that in a million years, nor should they.
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.
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.
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.