With the additions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, the New York Yankees have a nice problem on their hands, and that is the fact that they have too many starting pitchers. For the fifth slot in their rotation, it comes down to A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia.
General manager Brian Cashman has already stated he's looking to further tweak the roster, meaning the extra starting pitching he has won't last long. So who is most likely to be dealt?
Garcia was just signed to a one-year deal this offseason and most likely won't make the starting rotation coming out of spring training. Not to mention, Garcia won't make a big fuss if he's sent to the bullpen since he had to know that was a strong possibility when he signed, given the Yanks' well-known search for more starters.
Also, Garcia can't be traded until June.
Out of the three mentioned, Hughes is the youngest, cheapest and has the most potential to improve by far. Hughes was once the top pitching prospect in the Yankees organization, but as of today hasn't panned out the way the Bombers thought he would.
All that being said, at age 25 (26 in June), Hughes still has time to recover what he's lost the past few seasons and return to the form he showed in the first half of 2010. He's reportedly been cutting weight to get into better shape, and if he can remain healthy, the past struggles he's had could be forgotten with a strong showing in 2012.
It's tough to make the argument that Hughes simply doesn't have what it takes since his problems on the mound have coincided with injuries, and it's tough to imagine he just lost his 18-win stuff from 2010.
If all else fails for Hughes, Garcia could easily replace him in the rotation and Hughes could move to the bullpen, where he has experience and past success. That kind of flexibility gives Hughes an even better shot of staying with the team.
Last, and certainly least, we have Burnett. Despite his moment of glory in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, Burnett has been mostly a disappointment and hasn't shown nearly the same talent he displayed with the Toronto Blue Jays.
He certainly hasn't lived up to the over $80 million he signed for back in 2009. For all this, Burnett will be the top trade bait of the three.
With $33 million left over the next two years on his current deal, the Yanks will have plenty of problems trying to trade him away. Every team knows his recent problems and won't exactly be jumping at the chance to bring him to their team.
That can be changed, however, if the Yanks agree to pick up the majority of the deal. I would say at the very least half, making the receiving team of a deal for Burnett a little happier only have to pay around $8 million of his annual salary.
Cashman has made it clear to teams he'd be willing to pick up roughly a quarter of Burnett's salary ($8 million) over the next two seasons, but that is flat-out absurd to think any team would agree to that.
In the end, Cashman and the Yankees won't have a choice because they can't afford to have an angry Burnett sitting in the bullpen as a cancer, especially not at the price they are paying him. Burnett could also single-handedly bring down one of the best bullpens in the majors.
They'd be much better served picking up half (at least) of his remaining salary just to get him off the team for good.
Those factors make Burnett the most likely to be traded of the three. Cash will find that the measly $4 million per year he is willing to pick up won't even attract a nibble and he will end up picking up more just to get Burnett out of the Bronx.
Don't expect Burnett to be with this team on Opening Day 2012. It's a dream that every Yankee fan shares, this one included.