Tag: aj burnett

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?

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Mets Game 73: Loss to Yankees

Yankees 5 Mets 0

It wasn’t even that close.

The Yankees won the game by only five runs, but it may as well have been fifty.

Following up his fine start against the Mets two weeks ago, A.J. Burnett was even better. He was brilliant, and nearly unhittable. Nearly, because the Mets were able to scratch out one measly base hit against him in seven innings, whiffing ten times in the process. Once he left the game, you’d think the Mets might fare better against Bob Bruney and David Robertson, but it was not to be — that one single off the bat of Alex Cora would be the only one of the evening for the Metropolitans.

Mets starter Tim Redding was mildly effective through his first five innings, but fell apart facing the Bombers the third time through the order. Redding allowed four runs in the sixth and five runs total in his five and a third innings of work.

Notes

Brian Stokes, Pat Misch, and Elmer Dessens — aka “the bottom of the barrel” — shut out the Yankees over the final 3 2/3 innings. I think the Yanks simply lost interest, perhaps sent into a state of depression from watching the feeble Mets’ “offense”. Or maybe that was me.

In the words of my father-in-law, who had the sense to be viewing a rerun of Deadliest Warrior on Spike TV instead of the Mets game (William Wallace vs. Shaka Zulu, I believe):

“Only one hit? One hit? That’s embarrassing. A disgrace. You can’t do that as a New York team, especially playing against the other New York team.”

Yeah, well, it was, and, they did.

At the time, I doubted his decision to watch a repeat of overgrown D&D ubergeeks simulate fantasy battles with war hammers, spit poison, and ball and chains while there was a very REAL battle going on at Citi Field, but on second thought ….

Next Mets Game

The series finale begins at 8:05 PM, with Livan Hernandez going against Chien-Ming Wang — and with the way things are going, Wang is suddenly a pitcher that could give the Mets trouble. To add insult to injury, the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

I may have Spike TV running on the “picture in picture”.

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Mets Game 61: Loss to Yankees

Yankees 15 Mets 0

Johan Santana: awful.

A.J. Burnett: spectacular.

Yankees: hungry.

Mets: apparently well-fed.

Johan Santana did not have his best stuff; in fact, he had his worst stuff. He allowed nine earned runs in three innings in the worst start of his Mets career. Maybe in his entire career. Meantime, Burnett had his great stuff, and wasn’t giving in, even with a 15-run lead.

The Mets threw up the white flag by the sixth inning. Strange to give up so early in a park where it’s so easy to put a ball over the fence, but that’s our team — ya gotta believe (though, not necessarily right now).

Notes

The Mets actually had Burnett on the ropes in the top of the third, loading the bases with none out and no outs in the third, but came up empty. Remember they were in an AL park so it’s not like one of those outs was the pitcher (though, I wonder if Santana wouldn’t have fared better). They are hitting under .111 with two outs and the bases juiced.

Brian “Rusty” Stokes made his first appearance since Obama’s stimulus package was unveiled, and it was inauspicious to say the least (brings back frustrating memories of Aaron Sele). No doubt he’ll be re-shackled and sent back to the dungeon.

Despite the score, the Yankees continued to hustle like madmen, out of the box, on the basepaths and in the field.

In the fourth, Alex Cora almost pulled off a triple play on a low liner off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. Cora allowed to drop, then tagged the runner who was running back to second (thinking the ball would be caught) and then fired to first but was a shade too late to nab the hustling A-Rod, who was busting it down the line with an eight-run lead. Some say it’s easy to hustle when you’re winning. Others say it’s the other way around.

During that fateful fourth frame, Ron Darling mentioned that a pitcher shouldn’t hit a batter because he’s pitching poorly. But that’s not why a pitcher would throw at a batter when a team is killing him. Rather, a pitcher will throw inside and “move a hitter’s feet” if the opposing team as a whole has become too comfortable — meaning, they have no fear standing in the batter’s box because all pitches have been thrown middle-out. If a pitcher is pounding the outside part of the plate, and the hitters are diving over the plate and smashing the ball, then it is completely acceptable for a pitcher to change his strategy and send a pitch (or two) way inside, for the purpose of planting a seed in the hitters’ heads that “hey, I can’t be so quick to dive out over the plate, because I might catch the ball on my chin”.

In the fifth inning, with the Mets down by 13, Alex Cora struck out on a check swing. The ball bounced past the catcher, but instead of running to first, Cora chose instead to stand in the box and argue with the umpire. I know there are those of you out there who will defend Cora for being frustrated about the call, and being 13 down, but this just plays right back in to what we’ve been stating here all along — the Mets hustle and do things right when they deem necessary, rather than all the time.

Bill Webb’s Emmy-award winning production skills consistently leave me frustrated. The cameras do a wonderful job of showing me the fine-grained detail of Carlos Beltran’s mole or the whiskers under Ryan Church’s chin, but they don’t give me a very good view of the action. Case in point: bottom of the second inning, an RBI single to left field where Fernando Martinez threw the ball up the first base line as Hideki Matsui scored. Webb provided us six different angles, but only one of them was slightly helpful in seeing what happened on the play. What we saw was: 1. the shot of Jeter making contact with the ball from the CF camera; 2. a closeup on F-Mart fielding the ball; 3. a full-screen closeup on Matsui running somewhere between third and home; 4. camera closeup following the ball as it was thrown by Martinez; 5. camera panning toward home as the throw comes in; 6. camera closeup following Santana after his pitch as he ran to back up home plate; 7. full-screen shot of Santana picking up the ball behind home plate; 8. overhead shot of the infield as the play ensued. That last view was the most helpful, as we could see the runners going around the bases and Santana’s path from the mound to his backup position. Note to Mr. Webb: instead of 7 useless glam shots of a uniform filling the screen, how about one or two wide-angle views that show as much of the field and the play as possible? Some of us don’t care if the players look small — we just want to see the action. Better yet: just stick ONE camera behind home plate, and give us that view once in a while. This isn’t a fashion show, it’s a baseball game.

Prior to the contest, Francisco Rodriguez confronted Yankee pitcher Bob Bruney about Bruney’s remarks about K-Rod’s postgame celebratory routine. Being an old-school guy who was taught to a) respect your opponent and b) keep your emotions in check, I can’t say I’m on K-Rod’s side. And I’m not sure it shows that K-Rod is a competitor or “tough”. To me it shows that Bruney got under his skin — and why would you want to let someone know that hey have that power over you? If I’m K-Rod, I counter in the media — where the battle was originally waged — with something dismissing like “hey, when Bruney saves 60 games he can judge my antics”, and leave it at that. For those who think K-Rod showed the team has “spunk” or that he was “showing some fire in the belly” or looking to “spark the team”, well, take a look at the final score. Didn’t work. Talk is cheap.

Next Mets Game

The Mets have a day off on Monday, then travel down to Baltimore to face the Orioles for a three-game set. Game one on Tuesday begins at 7:05 PM, with Mike Pelfrey facing Jeremy Guthrie.

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Buy Me To the Moon

With the recent signing of Mark Teixeira for $180M over 8 years, the New York Yankees have spent a total of $423.5M on three free agents this winter.

Add in the $248M still owed on Alex Rodriguez’s contract, and the Bronx Bombers have committed over a half-billion dollars ($671.5M to be exact) to three ballplayers over the next eight years.

If that’s not an attempt to buy a World Series Trophy, I don’t know what is.

Based on this winter’s signings, the Steinbrenners clearly did not have any investments with Bernard Madoff (unlike another baseball team father-son ownership based in New York City … though, we’re assured that little financial scandal won’t affect their organization in any way).

The immediate reaction by 99% of people is that this enormous outlay of cash by the Yankees is despicable, unfair, and/or “exactly what’s wrong with baseball”.

Hmm ….

On the one hand, it’s slightly upsetting that Teixeira did not choose to join his hometown Baltimore Orioles, who have some bright young arms, athletic outfielders, and a future superstar catcher on their horizon. Adding a solid All-Star bat like Teixeira might have been the last piece of the puzzle to push them into contention at some point within the next 2-3 years. Already the toughest division in baseball, the AL East would have been even more competitive if the O’s joined the ranks of the elite.

But now, it’s a three-team race among the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays — who have to prove 2008 wasn’t a Cinderella season. No matter how much the Blue Jays and Orioles improve, it’s doubtful they’ll sniff the postseason before 2012. Though, you never know.

Does that make the Yankees a big bully? Is their spending this winter as obnoxious as everyone says — particularly in this difficult economy? Are the Yankees singlehandedly “ruining baseball” ?

No, no, and no. And no to any other such nonsense.

First off, the Yankees had over $80M come off their 2008 budget thanks to the expiring contracts of Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, and Kyle Farnsworth (yes, I know Farnsworth was traded, but it was nonetheless another $5.5M off the books). With all that coming off, it’s entirely possible that the Yankees’ 2009 budget will be BELOW their 2008 spending even with the additions of Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. Heck, they may still have room to sign Manny Ramirez. Yes, their payroll is still going to be a good $70M or $80M more than the next-highest spenders, but they’re not going above and beyond what they’ve been doing since 2003. And guess what? Despite spending more than any other team for the last five years, the Yankees have yet to make a World Series appearance. Huh.

Secondly, while every other team in baseball is crying about the economy, claiming they can’t afford to pay for free agents — and in many cases, laying off non-player personnel — the Yankees are HIRING. If the Steinbrenners follow up these big free agent signings with an announcement that they’re cutting their administrative staff or stadium maintenance people, then something stinks. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. In these tough times, I openly applaud business owners like the Steinbrenners, who instead of laying off people for fear what the future might bring, are instead investing in their future and seeking to improve and grow their product.

Obviously, the Yankees can afford to pay all these ridiculous salaries — they must be doing well. Would you prefer that they sat on their money, or hid it somewhere, rather than doling it out? Consider this: with the signings of three All-Stars, how many Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett Yankee jerseys and T-shirts will be sold? How many more baseball gloves with those players’ “autographs” on them will leave the shelves? How much money will Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett themselves spend, now that they’re ultra-millionaires? My guess is all three will put at least some of their earnings back into the economy, as well as into charitable foundations. Spending money in these tough times shouldn’t be frowned upon — it should be embraced and encouraged. Somehow, it all trickles down, eventually.

Finally, it is not the Yankees “ruining the game” by spending boatloads of money. If anyone is “ruining” baseball, it’s the San Diego Padres, who are dismantling their team piece by piece because their owners are in the midst of a divorce. To me, it is vastly more despicable for a teams like the Padres and Marlins to run “fire sales” in an effort to reduce payroll — and in effect, put a minor league team on the field. I understand that small market teams can’t compete, financially, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, etc. But if they can’t figure out a way to generate the minimum $40-60M to cover a Major League payroll, then either find a new management team, sell the club, or go to the minors — in my opinion there are too many MLB teams anyway.

Which brings me to another point that isn’t related to the Yankees, but with MLB in general. We’ve heard that the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays have been “forced” to lay off administrative personnel during this offseason. It’s also been reported that MLB had to cut their staff significantly, specifically in their MLB Advanced Media / website department. Can someone please explain to me how and why there are teams and MLB itself cutting staff when they made more money in the last five years than they ever have in history?

It was widely reported last winter that MLB.com paid out $30M to each club, after it generated nearly $400M in revenues. MLB Advanced Media’s growth has been fast and furious, and I find it VERY hard to believe that revenues were down in 2008 — if they were, they couldn’t be down by much. MLB.com’s user base, paid subscriptions, and traffic all went up. In addition, it was also widely reported that MLB as a whole made over six billion dollars in 2007 — an all-time high — and set attendance records. Following that momentum, several teams during the 2008 season set records again for attendance and ticket sales (including our New York Mets). So for the last two or three years, baseball has been absolutely booming, bringing in money faster than they count it — yet, teams (other than the Yankees) are crying poverty and adding to the unemployment rate. Is it me, or is something rotten in Denmark?

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but the money being thrown around by the Yankees is, to me, refreshing. At least there is one team doing well enough to feel they can put their profits back into the company, with an eye toward improvement and long-term growth.

Happy holidays.

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Francoeur for Greinke?

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe is reporting that the Braves are discussing a deal with the Royals that would send outfielder Jeff Francoeur to Kansas City for righthander Zack Greinke.

From the article:

According to one National League executive, the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves have had serious discussions about a trade that would send outfielder Jeff Francouer to the Royals for pitcher Zack Greinke. The same source said he believed the teams were close to executing the deal, but that Atlanta was holding up any and all trade discussions until the Braves had a resolution of their pursuit of right-hander A.J. Burnett. Current Royals GM Dayton Moore (who interviewed for the Red Sox’ job during Theo Epstein’s walkabout in 2005-06) is a former member of the Braves organization who is eager to bring Francouer to Kansas City.

Hmm … while I would love for the pesky Francoeur to leave Atlanta, I simply don’t see it happening. Despite his mid-season slump and temporary demotion to the minors, the organization seems to love Francoeur and the home-grown, “local boy done good” story attached to him. But then, the Braves have been operating differently since John Schuerholz retired.

If A.J. Burnett spurns Atlanta’s contract offer, the Braves will be in a fairly desperate situation, so a trade of Francoeur to fill a rotation spot is not completely unrealistic. Further, Greinke reminds me a lot of a young, righthanded Tom Glavine — a poised, confident pitcher with sick command of a 90-MPH fastball and offspeed stuff.

On the other hand, how many more young pitchers can the Royals afford to trade?

******* UPDATE ************

Joe Hamrahi says (through Twitter) that the Francoeur – Greinke rumors are “false false false”.

Hamrahi is tweeting live from Vegas. You can read more on Baseball Digest Daily.

****** UPDATE 2 ************

Mark Healey, also tweeting live from Vegas, says this rumor is “half-true”, and that the Royals are targeting Yunel Escobar, not Francoeur. This makes a lot more sense from Atlanta’s POV, as they seem ardent to dealing the Cuban shortstop. Does that mean the Braves sign someone like Orlando Cabrera? Or bring back Rafael Furcal? This one is worth watching.

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Burnett Has Many Suitors

It appears that three teams are in the midst of a bidding war for A.J. Burnett.

The Braves, Red Sox, and Yankees have all reportedly made offers to the fragile but gifted righthander, who is seeking a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $75M+.

One must wonder if the Yankees and Red Sox really want Burnett, or is this deja vu all over again — in other words, a repeat of the chase for Carl Pavano several years ago. Back then, it appeared that the Red Sox were bidding for Pavano to keep him away from the Yankees, and vice-versa. If the two deep-pocketed clubs are serious about Burnett, that’s bad news for the Braves, who will have a hard time out-bidding the big boys.

If the Bosox sign Burnett, they likely will not pursue Derek Lowe — who has expressed a preference to return to Beantown. Such a signing would also free Boston to trade one of their young starters for someone like Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

On the other hand, if Burnett signs with the Yankees, then there’s a better chance of Lowe returning to Boston, but still no guarantee.

In either case, the Braves would need to get creative about filling their rotation needs. My guess is they’d get back into talks with the Padres about Jake Peavy — if he isn’t already a Cub.

One thing is for sure — the Hot Stove is close to breaking, with one move likely to ignite another ten.

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Javier Vazquez to Braves

Pending a physical, the Braves have acquired Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan from the White Sox in exchange for Brent Lillibridge, Tyler Flowers, Jon Gilmore, and Santos Rodriguez.

As isuzudude already commented, this deal likely takes Atlanta out of the running for Jake Peavy — though, the pieces the Padres want are still property of the Braves. If the Braves are willing to give up more from their abundance of near-ready prospects, plus Yunel Escobar, then a Peavy deal is still possible. But with Lillibridge gone, the only way I see the Braves dealing Escobar is if they either get Khalil Greene back or if they sign someone like Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera.

Regardless, the Braves are in the market for at least another starting pitcher, and they have supposedly made an offer to A.J. Burnett. Both the Vazquez deal and the offer to Burnett give them leverage in the Peavy talks. Will be interesting to watch.

Is this a good deal for the Braves? It does look that way, particularly since Lillibridge’s stock plummeted after a disappointing 2008 season in AAA, and the other three prospects are relative no-names. However, the White Sox were desperate to dump Vazquez, and what they received in return was a talented, speedy middle infielder who will play in MLB next year and a young power-hitting catcher with enormous upside. After a monster performance in the Arizona Fall League, Flowers might see some action for the ChiSox before the end of ’09, and — if he continues his current course — could be a future All-Star caliber catcher.

Vazquez will do well in Atlanta, partially because he’s getting away from a manager who didn’t want him and partially because he’s going to a city that is ideal for his personality — low-key, low expectations, not much media coverage. He won’t be an ace but he’ll be a solid #2 or #3.

Don’t discount the acquisition of Boone Logan, a young LOOGY who has been getting pounded by AL hitters for the last three years. Logan is only 24 years old, has a live fastball, and is very tough on lefties. He has age on his side, and he’s improving. The control problem that plagued his first two years is becoming less of an issue, as his K:BB ratio improved dramatically from 2007 to 2008 (in ’08 he struck out 42 and walked 14 in 42 IP; in ’07 he went 35 K / 20 BB / 52 IP). I’m not saying Logan is the next Mike Gonzalez, but he should earn a spot in the Braves bullpen and be a significant contributor.

Interesting point: the Braves and White Sox are two teams that rarely make bad trades. Further, neither of them are done dealing this winter.

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Buzz Around Burnett

The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Phillies, Orioles, and Blue Jays are all in pursuit of A.J. Burnett, according to various sources.

Supposedly, the Yankees are going after Burnett fairly hard, and would like to sign both him and C.C. Sabathia this winter — and may also extend an offer to Derek Lowe. I for one wouldn’t put it past the Bronx Bombers from signing all three of the top starting pitchers available on the free agent market. They can certainly afford it.

Buster Olney believes a guaranteed fifth year will seal the deal for Burnett. Ken Rosenthal thinks the Red Sox are interested, perhaps to keep him from pitching against them.

I’m not sure any team will give Burnett five years, based on his injury history. As for Boston’s interest, that may have waned since this morning’s trade of Coco Crisp for Ramiro Ramirez. Obtaining Ramirez means they can move Justin Masterson to the rotation. The Bosox already have four strong starters returning in Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, and Tim Wakefield, in addition to youngster Clay Buchholz. Of course, a team can never have enough pitching, so perhaps they will be after a free agent starter such as Burnett or Derek Lowe, who reportedly would like very much to return to Boston. Further, one of those returning arms could be used as trade bait — such as in a deal to the Rangers for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

The Cubs’ retention of Ryan Dempster suggests that they will be less active in their pursuit of a big-name starter — and increases the demand for Burnett and the other starters still available.

Where do the Mets fit in on all this?

So far, no buzz has suggested interest in Burnett by the Mets, probably due to his injuries and possibly also the fact that until 2008, he was a .500 pitcher. Fishy, isn’t it, A.J.’s best season came in a walk year?

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