Pirate A.J. Burnett Is the Most Effective Pitcher on the Yankee Payroll

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer IAugust 1, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 31:  Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers the ball against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 31, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Pirate right-hander A.J. Burnett almost threw his second career no-hitter last night in Chicago. He let up a two out, two strike single to Chicago Cub pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas. Other than that, he was dominant, tossing a one-hit complete game shutout.

Burnett improved to 13-3 with an ERA of 3.27 over 124 innings. He is averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per start, gives up fewer than a homer a start and strikes out 2.76 batters for every walk.

He is having a solid year for Pittsburgh and is one of the reasons why the Pirates are all but certain to not only have their first winning season since 1992 but have a legitimate shot at the post season.

And to make the acquisition of Burnett even better is that the Yankees are picking up most of the tab. According to ESPN.com, the Yankees have sent enough cash to pay for nearly 60 percent of Burnett's remaining contract. The Pirates will pay $13 million of the remaining $31 million of his deal. The Yankees will pay for the rest.

For the money the Yankees are paying Burnett, they could use his arm right now. New York still has the best record in the American League, but are in a slump. They have dropped seven of their last 10 games including their last four in a row.

But most importantly, the Yankees have ambitions beyond a Division Title. The best way to win the team's 28th title (and second since 2000) is to have a solid starting rotation to counter the likes of the Rangers, Angels, Tigers, Nationals, Giants, Braves, Reds and Dodgers.

Lately the rotation has been lacking. Last night Ivan Nova could not hold onto a 5-0 lead for even one inning. Relying on Freddie Garcia and Phil Hughes can be risky. Even CC Sabathia got hit hard in his last start. And, according to the New York Daily News, Andy Pettitte is not expected to come back for another month.

The Yankees are banking that the veteran Hiroki Kuroda and Sabathia will be ready to lead a playoff series. It is possible of course, but their starting pitching depth is fragile at best right now.

They could use a starting pitcher who is logging innings and piling up wins, like Burnett.

Now of course Burnett was not effective in his last two seasons in New York and he is the beneficiary of a change in scenery. That being said, Burnett was also credited as one of the people who relaxed the Yankee clubhouse on route to the 2009 title. And do not forget Burnett won the critical Game 2 of that year's fall classic. So it is not like he could not contribute to the Yankees success.

Maybe the Yankees will be fine. Perhaps Sabathia, Kuroda, Hughes and Nova are enough to get back to the World Series. How strange would it be to see the Yankees face the Pirates with Burnett on the mound?

The Yankees could use a pitcher having a season like Burnett. They are paying for it, after all.