It is true, Burnett is not the most appeasing item on the menu at this point, especially when he is due $33 million over the next two seasons and is coming off a season where his ERA ballooned to 5.15 in the regular season.
The deal is perfect for the Pirates because 10 to 15 years down the line, this trade could potentially be looked upon as a game-changer for the basement-dwelling Bucs.
First and foremost, A.J. Burnett brings experience to an inexperienced locker room. Just last July, the Pirates were in first place in the NL Central and fan optimism had never been higher. But a key ingredient missing from the Pirates team was pennant experience.
For years, I have been saying that something the Pirates were missing was a player like Doug Mientkiewicz in the rotation and bullpen. What I mean is a player with experience from pennant races who could pitch a game late in the season and not be worried that he was up against the Phillies to hold down the top spot in the division.
Now, A.J. Burnett's inconsistencies have been well-chronicled as well as his locker room attitude. But my counter to this is look at where and who he was playing for. The Yankees are a team who are favored just about every night and scrutinized more in New York then perhaps any other sports team.
Furthermore, Burnett has played under a manager who was not necessarily the best fit for his style. Joe Girardi just seem more water to his oil and it is not hard to imagine they may not have been the best to fix his mind games.
Pittsburgh on the other hand is a team expected to lose every night and where at pitcher with a .500 record or higher is a rarity. Burnett would be pushed into a higher rotation spot but with far less pressure to perform as compared to New York.
Furthermore, Clint Hurdle has proven to be a players coach through and through and some would consider him just as "obtuse" as Burnett.
And is everyone forgetting that Burnett saved the Yankees playoff hopes this past season after having the entire city of New York screaming for the heads of he and his manager when Burnett was sent to the mound in Game 4?
Burnett brings far more intangibles and upside with him than any other free-agent starting pitcher the Pirates could afford or promoting a AAA starter who is not ready. Burnett will fill a vital role in the Pirates rotation and bring a locker room presence that will help the Pirates start jumping the hurdle to respectable.
Could Burnett fizzle out like so many other Pirate veteran outsiders over the past few years? Yes, this is Pittsburgh baseball after all. However, I think Burnett will be that one move that finally pans out.
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