Should the Yankees Hope AJ Burnett is Claimed off Waivers?

Gabe Feller-CohenContributor IIIAugust 5, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23:  A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees delivers leaves the game in the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics on July 23, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It has been reported around the sports world that the Yankees have placed A.J. Burnett (among others) on waivers. 

Waiver trade rules can get pretty complicated. For some help understanding them, check out this cheat-sheet from ESPNs Jayson Stark.

The most important waiver rule in this scenario, is that "if a team is just hoping to dump a player's salary, it can simply allow a team which claimed that player to have him for a small waiver fee. If that happens, the team that gets the player has to pay his entire salary."

After this season, AJ Burnett will still have two more seasons remaining on his contract with the Yankees.

This contract has Burnett making $16.5 million a year, twice as much as Curtis Granderson will make this year. For that kind of money, one might think Burnett is an ace; well, far from it.

Early in his career, Burnett showed signs of brilliance. In 2002, A.J. won 12 games with a 3.30 ERA and tossed five shutouts (a league high).

His total pre-Yankees ERA is 3.81, not sparkling, but not too bad. 

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So far with the Yankees, he's gone 31-33 with 4.60 ERA (not to mention his career 5.67 postseason ERA). Those are back-end-of-the-rotation numbers, not $16.5 million No. 2 starter stats.

Replacing Burnett wouldn't even be too much of an issue for the Bombers, because Phil Hughes seems to be straightening himself out and getting his velocity back, and Ivan Nova (despite being sent down to the minors for a few weeks) is having a fairly successful major league season.

If Hughes can hold onto what he found a few days ago in Chicago, Nova continues to blossom and Burnett sticks around, the Yanks are left with six starting pitchers.

A six-man rotation is possible, but definitely not ideal for the Yankees, as they need to get CC Sabathia on the hill every five days.  

The Yankees would absolutely be most benefited by just letting another club claim Burnett. AJ is 34 years old and not getting any younger. Although Burnett is doing markedly better this season than his dreadful 2010, he is still not worth the money or the work.

There are players who are signed or traded for as projects that the coaching staff can hopefully work on and straighten out. Well, Burnett was not signed with that in mind. But every five days Burnett serves as a new project for the Yankees. It seems as if they have to coax him through every single start.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 29:  A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees wipes sweat from his face against the Baltimore Orioles on July 29, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

However, when Burnett's right, he is simply dominant. But that just doesn't happen enough. More often than not, he struggles mightily with his control and doesn't seem to trust his (down right incredible) stuff.

The issue with getting rid of Burnett, is that he's not a very "tradeable" player due to his massive contract and poor output. But there is probably at least one team out there that is willing to take him on, as long as they don't have to lose anything (much the same way the Blue Jays dumped Alex Rios on the White Sox).

If AJ Burnett is indeed to be claimed by any team (except for maybe the Red Sox), the Yankees should simply let him go. 

UPDATE: Ivan Nova has just notched his 10th win, going 7.2 innings and giving up just one run, with a career high 10 Ks.