New York Yankees: If Sabathia Makes Cashman a Genius, What Does A.J. Make Him?

Harold FriendChief Writer IJanuary 29, 2012

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 04:  A J Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees pitches in the sixth inning during Game Four of the American League Divison Series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on October 4, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The Yankees defeated the Tigers 10-1.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

On Dec. 20, 2008 the New York Yankees officially signed free agent CC Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million contract.

On December 18, 2008, the Yankees officially signed A.J. Burnett to a five-year, $82.5 million contract.

The only thing the two had in common was that each used initials instead of his first and middle names.

Brian Cashman fans that claim he is one of baseball's top general managers point to Sabathia as proof of his baseball acumen.

Brian Cashman fans that claim he doesn't know what he is doing point to Burnett as proof of his lack of baseball acumen.

During his three Yankees seasons, Sabathia has won 19, 21 and 19 games, averaging a 3.18 ERA, a 140 ERA+ and a 1.189. He has a cumulative WAR of 16.2.

During his three Yankees seasons, Burnett has won 13, 10 and 11 games, averaging a 4.79 ERA, a 93 ERA+ and a 1.447 WHIP.

Before becoming a Yankee, Burnett had been on the disabled list 10 times. Until 2007, when he was 18-12 with the Toronto Blue Jays, the most games Burnett had ever won was 12.

One scout, who preferred to remain anonymous in order to be candid, thought Burnett would excel with the Yankees.

“One thing about Burnett, though, is that a lot of free agents or potential-trade guys seem to be leery of pitching in the American League. It seems like the money was relatively even with Atlanta, and this is a guy who’s staying, and who performed in the American League East. That’s pretty important.”


Burnett’s agent, Darek Braunecker, said that Burnett had matured as a pitcher. He had learned when to throw his fastball at 98 mph and when to let up. His work between starts was more sophisticated.

One reason the Yankees signed Burnett was that he did well against the Boston Red Sox. He was 5-0 with a 2.56 E.R.A. in eight career starts against Boston.

Burnett dominated his new team, as Alex Rodriguez explained after Burnett had beaten the Yankees in game in which he had struck out 13 in a 2-1 win: "He was throwing pellets. He was 0-2 on everybody, throwing in the high- to mid-90s, and then he had a snake for a breaking ball. Give him credit.”

The New York Mets have been criticized often for free agent signings (in 2012, they are criticized for not signing free agents) and poor trades, but they made one trade that is bulletproof to verbal assaults.

In 1998, the Mets traded Burnett to the Florida (now Miami) Marlins for former Yankee Al Leiter.