New York Yankees: 5 Reasons AJ Burnett Should Be Traded for Travis Hafner

Phillip BrownSenior Analyst IIJanuary 24, 2012

New York Yankees: 5 Reasons AJ Burnett Should Be Traded for Travis Hafner

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    The New York Yankees currently have seven starting pitchers and no DH.

    They also would love to shed AJ Burnett's contract.

    How can they accomplish all of this in a single move? Why not send him to the Cleveland Indians in return for Travis Hafner?

    Hafner does have a limited no-trade clause, but do you really think he would decline a trade to the Yankees—that is, assuming the Yankees are even a team on his confidential no-trade list.

Too Many Starting Pitchers

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    After the New York Yankees went out and acquired both Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, they immediately had a surplus of starting pitchers.

    Phil Hughes could easily slide back into the bullpen, but Freddy Garcia and AJ Burnett have never pitched out of the bullpen for any extended amount of time. This transition could be a rough one.

    Garcia posted a 3.62 ERA in 2011, and at $4 million he is fairly cheap. AJ Burnett, on the other hand, had a 5.15 ERA in 2011 and will be payed $16.5 million in 2012.

    Burnett seems to be the odd one out of the Yankees' rotation, but what would the Yankees be getting back and why would the Indians accept such a deal?

The Yankees Need a DH

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    The Yankees current DH is Andruw Jones.

    He is a good player and a great clubhouse influence, but he is not an everyday player.

    Jones and Hafner are not very durable, neither player has played in 120-plus games since 2007, and neither player played 100-plus games in 2011.

    If you expanded each of their seasons to full 600-at-bat seasons, Hafner would project to hit 24 home runs while Jones would project to hit 41 home runs. Keep in mind that Yankee Stadium is very hitter-friendly; Hafner's left-handed swing will be perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium, and Jones' 192 at-bat 2011 season is a very small sample size.

    So, Jones had more power in 2011. If that is true, then why would the Yankees look to replace him?

    The answer is his contact skills.

    Jones hit a measly .247 in 2011, while Hafner hit a respectable .280. Jones also had a dismal 33-percent strikeout rate compared to Hafner's 24-percent strikeout rate.

    You can put Hafner's bat in the seven hole right behind Nick Swisher, and you have another batter who can consistently put the ball in play and get on-base.

He Can Spell Mark Teixeira

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    Mark Teixeira still plays Gold Glove-caliber defense, but he will be 32 in April. A couple of starts at DH here and there can only help him.

    Travis Hafner will never win a Gold Glove, but he is a capable defensive first baseman. He may not make incredible diving plays, but he will make the plays that need to be made, and he will keep down the amount of errors.

    Alex Rodriguez will also need to DH, due to his age.

    Joe Girardi can plan ahead the games that Teixeira will get off and have Rodriguez DH and Hafner play first; this way, Girardi will cut down on the offensive loss when Teixeira gets a day off.

Free Agent Class of 2013

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    Travis Hafner is due $13 million in 2012 and a $2.75 million buyout in 2013.

    AJ Burnett, on the other hand, is due $33 million over the next two seasons.

    If the Yankees trade Burnett for Hafner they will clear his entire $16.5 million salary in 2013 off the books.

    AJ Burnett, Hiroki Kuroda, Freddy Garcia, Russell Martin, Nick Swisher and Mariano Rivera will all be coming off the books next offseason, as well. Assuming the Yankees' re-sign Rivera, Swisher and Martin, that frees up about $25 million that can be used to sign a frontline starter like Cole Hamels or Matt Cain.

    They both have pitched in the World Series, so they should be able to handle New York, but Cain has had the luxury to pitch in the NL West in AT&T Park for his entire career.

    In 2011, Hamels had a lower ERA, lower WHIP, higher strikeout rate, less walks and a lower BAA.

    A rotation of CC Sabathia, Cole Hamels, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos would be arguably the best in the majors.

The Indians Have Done It Before

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    Remember Derek Lowe?

    On October 31, the Cleveland Indians traded Chris Jones, a minor leaguer, to the Atlanta Braves for Derek Lowe. In the deal the Braves agreed to pay $10 million of his $15 million salary.

    Do not forget that the Indians will also be shedding Fausto Carmona's deal after he was arrested in the Domincan Republic for using a false identity. That will save them $7 million in 2012, $9 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014a gr—and total of $28 million.

    In this proposed Burnett-for-Hafner deal the Indians would not just be taking on salary, they would also be unloading some of their own. The Yankees will likely have to chip in a few million dollars to make the deal go through, but they would still save almost $15 million and would shed a huge contract one year sooner.

    This is a win-win trade.

    The Yankees get a DH and save money while the Indians improve their rotation once again. A rotation of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jiminez, AJ Burnett and Josh Tomlin is pretty good, and it may be good enough to jump the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central after Victor Martinez went down with a torn ACL.

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