The Pirates made a big splash over the weekend by signing Yankees’ reject, 35-year-old, right-handed pitcher, AJ Burnett. The way some Pirates’ fans have reacted, you would have thought that they just signed Justin Verlander. Even his peers think he’s overrated.
Sorry, don’t count me as one of those who is excited about the trade.
Pirates’ messageboards and the Facebook posts from diehards have been calling this one of the BEST SIGNING MANAGEMENT HAS MADE IN YEARS. They keep pointing out that with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder gone from the National League Central, this makes the Pirates a playoff contender. One delusional fan boldly predicted the Pirates will win the NL now.
I didn’t like this trade because the Pirates now owe Burnett $13 million for two years—money that should have gone towards a contract extension for Andrew McCutchen—the Pirates’ best player since Barry Bonds. The Pirates aren’t even close to extending his contract.
While Burnett has a wicked curveball—he’s also inconsistent in his delivery. And for those who keep throwing the Pujols and Fielder factors in your face, just remember that Burnett hasn’t had a season with an ERA lower than 4.00 since 2007.
Secondly, this is a short-term deal for the Bucs. By all likelihood, they will trade Burnett at the All-Star Game, hoping that he has a decent enough season for someone else to dangle MORE PROSPECTS to the Buccos. So basically, you’re eventually spending $13 million to bring in some new prospects—who you will never sign long-term.
It’s great that the Nuttings are willing to shell out some money. But I won’t be satisfied until they invest much more into a better quality player—like McCutchen. As I mentioned in a previous post, another thing that worries me is that Pirates’ outfielder, Starling Marte—a rising star in the minors—is being groomed to eventually take over for McCutchen. Marte should be up by mid-summer. Why not have two superstars in your outfield? Because the Pirates can’t afford it.
I watched Moneyball last week and I am more convinced than ever that Major League Baseball is still an uneven playing field for poorer teams like the Pirates. You scoff at that? How many World Series did the As win under this new system. Goose-egg, baby. Zero. (And by the way, I thought the movie was really good—but how the hell does Jonah Hill get an Oscar nomination for a supporting role BY PLAYING HIMSELF? Gee, that was a real stretch for Jonah. Way to showcase your acting chops. I’m a huge fan of his—just didn’t think his performance was Oscar-worthy. Although it was more Oscar-worthy than the God-awful Tree of Life. TREE OF SHIT is more like it. Now if skinny Jonah Hill gets fat again for Moneyball 2—OSCAR!)
Look, Burnett will certainly benefit moving away from playing the AL East opponents—which many consider to be playing in a hitters’ park—to the more more pitcher-friendly PNC Park. Yes, he will face weaker opponents. God knows that we want a pitcher who can’t pitch to the big boys. But don’t forget that the PIRATES STILL ARE OFFENSIVELY WEAKER THAN THESE OTHER TEAMS. Burnett had an ERA of 5.20 and lost 26 games while playing behind the Yankees’ offense. What he’s going to do behind the Pirates’ meager run support?
The bottom line is that they still need hitting and power—something they needed last year and failed to address in the off-season. Because they’re the Pirates. I have no doubt that they can spend money—but they need to spend it more wisely and strategically.
In the end, Burnett will end up being somewhat of a smokescreen. The Nuttings want to show the Pirate faithful that they can spend money and keep the diehards a bit more delusional, and string them along for another dismal season..