Should Twins Acquire AJ?

12 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

No, I do not think that the Twins should consider a trade to bring back former catcher AJ Pierzynski. I’m talking about whether or not the Twins should consider working on a trade with the Yankees to acquire RHP AJ Burnett.

When asked about that idea weeks ago, my immediate response was “No, thank you!”

But upon further review, I think it’s a valid question to ask. Burnett has been pretty bad the last two seasons. In 2010, he was 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP. In 2011, he was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. He is also owed $33 million over the next two seasons. He turned 35 years old in January.

All those reasons mean that the answer probably should be “No, thank you!” But maybe it isn’t and shouldn’t be that simple. It appears that a deal between the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates is likely, but here are a few reasons that the Twins should at least make a quick phone call to Brian Cashman: 

  • The first assumption would have to be that the Yankees will cover $20-25 million of the $33 million remaining on Burnett’s contract. If that can’t be agreed upon, then there is zero reason to continue discussion.
  • The second assumption is that the Yankees are not looking for a top prospect in return. Of course, if they’re going to hand over that much money, they will want something of quality too. If they think they’re going to get Miguel Sano, then the discussion can end too.
  • He has made 32 or more starts each of the past four seasons. He has thrown more than 186 innings each of those seasons.
  • Getting out of New York can be a good thing for many pitchers, especially after a bad year or two. Think anyone understands that better than Carl Pavano. The two were teammates with the Marlins from 2002 through 2004. Could playing in Minnesota and with an old teammate help Burnett reach his potential again?
  • Burnett may be a big of an enigma, but he’s an enigma who throws really hard and has a really nasty slider and as recently as three years ago, he struck out more than a batter per inning.
  • A rotation of Burnett, Liriano, Baker and Pavano is a pretty good start. Burnett has the stuff, like Liriano, to be a top of the rotation guy. Baker is a very good #2. Burnett has playoff experience and success.

The case can also be made that he, like Liriano, may be a bit of a head case. We don’t know if he will improve by being out of New York. We don’t know that he will continue to be healthy. We don’t know what the Twins advanced scouts think of what he has left.

It won’t happen, and it probably shouldn’t happen. At the end of the day, I probably would still say “No, Thank you!” The discussion is certainly worthwhile, and I have to assume that it was discussed at least to some level in the Twins front offices.

Any thoughts? Please feel free to use the Comments Section!

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37 Responses to “Should Twins Acquire AJ?”

  1. John February 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Even with Burnett the twinkies lose 90 games. Marquis and Blacky would not start for most AAA teams. Terry Ryans signing of Crapps, Marquis, Carroll, etc show he is clueless about baseball and will only sign “good guys”. This team is doomed unless Ryan and Gardy are canned ASAP!

    • Seth February 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      Alrighty then…

      • DH in Philly February 13, 2012 at 10:01 am #

        Seth – I can only congratulate you on your discretion. I could never respond civilly to some of these “fans”.

    • darin February 12, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

      Nicely put John.

  2. TT February 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Seth -

    You are embarrassing yourself.

    What the Twins need is a 35 year old pitcher who has got less than 200 innings pitched the last two years despite staying healthy and has put up ERA’s over 5 each ear doing it? His ERA’s either of the last two years would have made him the Twins worst pitcher last year.

    “as recently as three years ago, he struck out more than a batter per inning”

    So what?

    ” he’s an enigma who throws really hard and has a really nasty slider”

    And can’t get anyone out. Great. There are lots of those guys in the minor leagues. Burnett would be fine as depth at Rochester.

    This is one of those guys you sign for his press clippings. They could just as well sign Bert Blyleven, he had a nasty curve and he’s in the Hall of Fame. He’s a little old, but it would make a great story.

    • Seth February 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

      I’m really not embarrassed. All I did was ask the question. But to say that Burnett can’t be good again because of two bad years with the Yankees isn’t necessarily true either. The ‘stuff’ is still there for Burnett. Could be a change of scenery thing. Like I said 3-4 times in the short blog, I still wouldn’t do it, especially if the Yankees didn’t pick up a ton of the salary or expected a big prospect… but I’m not at all embarrassed for saying it’s a fair question to ask and a name that they should at least consider.

      • TT February 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

        “to say that Burnett can’t be good again because of two bad years with the Yankees isn’t necessarily true either. ”

        Of course it isn’t. But there is no evidence he would be better than the pitchers the Twins have.

        “The ‘stuff’ is still there for Burnett. ”

        No, it isn’t still there, if it ever was. He has had one really good season in his career.in 2008 and you can make the case for a couple other years when he pitched over 200 innings. But he has never really been a number one starter and he has not been even close the last three years.

        Like I said, you stick Burnett in last year’s Twins rotation and he’s the first guy you sit when everyone is healthy. And that’s not exactly a high standard.

        He certainly has a high media profile, like all Yankees.

    • TM February 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

      He hasn’t actually been as terrible as it seems the last few years. His ERA ballooned but his FIP, and xFIP even more so, has remained pretty respectable, so it’s not such a stretch to think that he might be able to have another good season or two. This is not an embarrassing proposition in any way.

      That said, I would be a little concerned about picking up a guy who has primarily been a power pitcher at age 35. As far as I know he still hits low to mid 90′s with his fastball, and his strikeout rate hasn’t really dropped off appreciably. Actually it compares quite well with Liriano’s the last few years. But then again, he’s getting old and this could be the year that his peripherals take a dive as well.

      I think he would make the Twins pitching staff better this year, but I’m loath to see the Twins give up any of their promising prospects right now.

      • TT February 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

        “his FIP, and xFIP even more so”

        And why does this matter?

        “his strikeout rate hasn’t really dropped off ”

        In 2007 he struck out 26% and in 2008 he struck out 24% of the batters he faced. In 2009 he struck out 22% . Last year he struck out 20%, in 2010 he struck out 17%. I think that is a drop off.

      • TM February 12, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

        The disparity between his FIP and ERA matters because it tells us that more balls that were hit into play were falling for hits than were for other pitchers and for previous years in his career. Yes this could mean that he was getting hit a bit harder than before, but given that his line drive, ground ball, and other rates were roughly similar to previous years, it most likely means that it was mostly a combination of bad defense and bad luck.

        In 2006 he struck out 20.5%, in 2004 and 2005 23%, in 2002 24% and 2001 17.5%. I’d say that this “trend” over the last few years is within the natural variation throughout his career. So I wouldn’t say that there has been any clear drop off.

        Would he make the Twins better? Most likely. Would he make the difference between the Twins being in the playoff hunt and not? Most likely not. So when it comes down to giving up a prospect or two to get him, I don’t think it would be worth it. But I definitely don’t think he’ll be playing in the minors this year and I’d be willing to bet that he pitches well enough to help just about any team.

      • TT February 13, 2012 at 12:03 am #

        “The disparity between his FIP and ERA matters because it tells us that more balls that were hit into play were falling for hits than were for other pitchers and for previous years in his career.”

        No, it doesn’t. And, as you point out, if he is giving up more hits on balls in play it could be because he is getting hit harder. In fact, that usually is the reason. That’s why good pitchers have better than average batting averages on balls in play over the course of their careers.

        ” I’d say that this “trend” over the last few years is within the natural variation throughout his career.”

        He has had two years in a row below his career average. That hasn’t happened since he was 24 and in his third season. In 2010, he had his lowest strikeout rate in 9 years. You may not see a trend, but when a pitcher struggles in every aspect of the game I think it is part of a trend.

        And yes, Burnett would make the Twins a better team. So does Mastroianni. Depth always helps. But paying $5 million for a 34 year old pitcher who has recently been worse than your struggling starters last year makes little sense. No matter how high his profile.

  3. Jay Sherman February 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    The minute the 100 million dollar salary cap was imposed I gave up on the Twins doing anything to remotely be competitive. I certainly think he would be an upgrade over Maruquis and Blackburn. But it will never happen. So why even contemplate it. The Twins are going to be one of the 3 or 4 worst teams in baseball.

    • Seth February 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

      Why? Because there is nothing else to talk about right now! Ha! Not until about Saturday when the Twins pitchers and catchers report.

  4. Greg February 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Interesting post, interesting stats,then you get bombed with replys.

    Win Twins!

  5. thrylos98 February 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Actually he pitched better than his records shows. His xFIP last season was 3.86, which would had been second with the Twins behind Baker (3.25). If he comes practically free, it might be tempting but I am leery because of a couple of reasons:

    - He has lost 3 mph in his fastball from his last season with Toronto to last season and it is a very hittable pitch. So he is not the same pitcher he once was.
    - If I remember correctly at least from what I hear in the NY media around here, he is not the easiest person to get along with and there was some very visible friction with teammates (eg. he blamed bad performances to Posada and refused to have Posada catch him after some point.) Not sure that the Twins want or are willing to deal with that kind of stuff… They got rid of their own players for less in the not so distant past.

    • Seth February 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      Good stuff, Thrylos. I should have looked at xFIP. Again, still not saying it’s a good idea, but if it’s for very little, worth considering.

      As for the ‘not the easiest person to get along with’ part, I’m not so sure. Remember, Pavano was supposed to be a bad guy when he played in NY too, but he’s become a pretty good player and leader and good guy in the community. There have been a lot of “bad guys” by circumstance.

    • TT February 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

      ” His xFIP last season was 3.86″

      Again, so what? What exactly do you think xFIP is measuring that makes up for a lousy ERA and lots hits. He also gave up the most home runs in his career last year. Batters AVG, OBP and SLG against him each of the last two years have all been among his career highs.

      “he blamed bad performances to Posada and refused to have Posada catch him after some point.”

      He may have a point. His wild pitches have gone up dramatically since he went to the Yankees. If your catcher doesn’t block balls in the dirt it can be tough on a pitcher when guys are on base. And he had a lot of those situations the three years with his WHIP over 1.4 every year.

  6. Sean February 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    Great topic, Seth. Was thinking the same thing. I think the Twins would be foolish not to make a call. Emphasis on make a call. A midrange or lower prospect for Burnett at 5M a year would be smart. Put it this way, AJ at 5-6m per year or Pavano at 8M/yr. Sounds more workable. Unfortunately with the Twins impatience this offseason – Capps, Marquis, etc. it is not likely to happen. Target Field v. Yankee bandbox (particularly lefty bats) would help AJ and getting away from the Yankee pressure-cooker may help. Potential upside and skills Twins sorely miss – power arm righty starters. As to what to do with rotation question that such a move raises, did not seem to bother the Twins last year when they resigned Pavano and had 6 starters. Blackburn or Marquis to the pen until the inevitable injury or ineffective starter is identified. Frankly, picking up players over replacement value is critical with for the Twins to regroup. Significant talent drain without high ceiling replacements is killing them. It could be a low risk, high rewards play. Since the Twins look, at best, to be a .500 team, if he bounces back, they can flip him. Or allows them to move Liriano / Pavano during the year (both are FA at end of season).

  7. Jim H February 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    I guess it is all right to look at every option but I can’t see Burnett. I don’t think the comparsion to Pavano works very well. Pavano was hurt, Burnett has been largely healthy and still not very good. As pointed out, all 5 starters currently penciled in for the Twins were better than Burnett, last year, when healthy. Even if the Yankees are willing to pick up a chunk of his salary, doesn’t it tell you something that they feel they will be a better team without him, even if it costs them $20 million?

  8. ShawntheRoad February 12, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    I saw Burnett throw a 5 inning rehab in 2005 in Syracuse. I have never seen a more unhittable pitching performance in my life. He didn’t give up a single hit and his pitches were just nasty. He probably walked 3 or 4 as well. With his stuff I wouldn’t mind the Twins taking a flyer. With his head, I don’t hate when the Twins play against him

  9. darin February 12, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    It will never happen. Terry Ryan has lost all the respect he earned with the horrible off season additions he tried to make this winter. I would love to see a rotation of Pavano, Baker, Burnett, Liriano and Hendriks. Give away Blackburn and Marquis, and while your at it add some actual arms to the bullpen if they can.

  10. Matt February 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    It might be a marginal improvement, but the Twins won’t even sign another reliever for 2-3 million at this point. Unless the Yankees are going to eat all of Burnett’s salary, it’s not going to happen. The Twins don’t want to spend the money.

  11. Seth February 12, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    Wow!! I must be weird. I can never even imagine such negativity. I can’t help but wonder if some commenters ever, I don’t know, smile? Life is good. Baseball and the Twins have given us so much joy. Why? I will never understand some people!

    • Bob February 13, 2012 at 12:49 am #

      All this negativity sucks….Ok PA or I mean Seth. It’s called reality Seth. Quit being a bigger homer than Dick Bremer. Remove the foam finger and rose colored glasses and see that this is a 99 loss team whose biggest acquisitions this offseason were Willingham, Carroll, Doumit, & Marquis. Meanwhile they lose Cuddyer, Kubel, & Nathan. Yeah everybody else must have it wrong except you. This team has World Series written all over it.

      • Sinking Liner February 13, 2012 at 7:32 am #

        When did Seth say the Twins were going to the World Series?

      • mini_tb February 13, 2012 at 10:02 am #

        I really appreciate Seth’s glass half full view of the Twins. Let’s try to enjoy the upcoming 2012 season instead of bitching about it before it’s even begun.

        Rehashing the same gripes day in and day out gets a little old to say the least. Yes, the team is going to need a lot of luck to contend this year. Seth will readily admit that.

        Seth has never said this is an unflawed roster. Do any of us want to read daily blog entries spewing negativity toward all things Twins related?

      • TT February 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

        This could be a world series team or it could be another terrible team. We will have to wait for them to play the games because there is no way of even evaluating the possibilities.

        How likely is it that Morneau comes back and is fully healthy? I don’t think anyone knows how likely it is. Its entirely a personality preference whether you are optimistic or pessimistic.

    • darin February 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

      Negativity? I wonder why. I guess all people do not have your ability to erase the 2011 season form their minds. I have went to an average of 10-12 games the last 15 years and I will probably go to 4 games this year with such a poor team. No Twins fans were expecting Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols or Mark Buehrle to sign here. But the players they brought in would be better fits in St.Paul playing for the Saints…

      • Seth February 13, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

        Willingham hit 29 homers last year in Oakland. He’s been a consistent OBP and HR guy for 5-6 years. Carroll is an on-base machine that should solidify the middle infield this year. Doumit is a career. 800 OPS guy who should be able to replace the production from Kubel. Marquis has had a very solid career, including last year when he was 9-5 with a sub-4 ERA until he was traded and then got hurt in the leg. Zumaya is a risk, but a hard-throwing risk. Minor League signings are just that, they’re probably AAAA types but every team signs them and I do like the ones the Twins got, for the most part.

        I shouldn’t have even responded to such a comment, but I guess you trapped me! :)

  12. mike wants wins February 13, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    I don’t think he’s much of an improvement over what they have, and he’s not really a long term answer either. I would not bring him in. I’d rather they see if M&M&Span are healthy, and if so, go get a better answer, even if it costs legit prospect(s). But, I’d not make any moves with long term implications until I knew the health of my 2 best players, and 3rd or 4th best player.

    • TT February 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Mike -

      I think that is exactly right.

      • Seth February 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

        I agree completely…

  13. darin February 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    The Twins could go to the World Series this year. All they need to do is save their money and buy tickets like the fans. That’s the only way they will make it back in the current state of the organization….

    • Seth February 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      enjoy the season… or… I guess there are other things to watch on TV…

      • darin February 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

        I have one simple question to ask you Seth, which team has more upside right now Minnesota or Kansas City? Which team has a better roster and who has the better prospects as of this day? A sad day when you have to look up at KC.

      • Seth February 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

        If healthy, I’ll take the Twins roster in 2012… but yeah, the Royals have better prospects, as they should.

  14. Gary February 14, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Kick the tires, check with the scouts and with
    Pavano. Hmmm. Throws hard, good slider,
    kind of an oddball = sounds like a closer??
    Stranger things have happened.

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