The Yankees are paying AJ Burnett like an ace at five years, $82.5 million. This is the most heavily scrutinized deal of the off-season.
The reason why this contract could be successful for the Yankees is because of a link between Burnett, Mike Mussina, and Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland.
Going into 2008, Mussina was on the decline. Most said he was done. Hank Steinbrenner even told him to "learn to pitch like Jamie Moyer," and almost lose the fastball altogether.
Mussina ended with one of his best seasons, going 20-9 with a 3.37 ERA and a K/BB ratio of five.
Part of Mussina's success should be credited to the help he got from Eiland, who was in his first year coaching with the Yankees.
Eiland taught Mussina to rely more on offspeed pitches, which had helped Mussina succeed in his prime.
Mussina's curveball helped him rack up the strikeouts. His changeup was reminiscent of his glory years, making it difficult for batters to hit for power (he gave up 17 home runs).
Eiland could help out Burnett in the same way he helped Mussina.
Burnett comes to the Yankees in a similar situation, as Mussina's going into last year. Burnett is capable of being an ace, but his main problem is the same as Mussina's.
Along with durability, Burnett's main problem has been fastball control.
Burnett has always been able to dominate with his curveball and changeup. His best outings are when he's able to utilize those pitches more than his fastball.
Eiland was able to help Mussina dominate with those pitches. He could get Burnett to pitch like an ace if he can get Burnett to take advantage of his offspeed pitches.