A.J. Burnett: Why His Contract Was Not a Mistake for the New York Yankees

Arad Markowitz@https://twitter.com/#!/AradMarkowitzContributor IIISeptember 15, 2011

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 15:  Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees pitches during the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 15, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With all the money the Yankees spend, there will be some contracts that are considered busts, most notably Carl Pavano.

The Yankees signed Pavano after a great season with the Marlins, going a career high 18-8 with an ERA of 3.00. The deal was a 4-year deal worth $39.95 Million. 

Pavano had a terrible stint in the Bronx, with just 28 starts in four years, and an abysmal ERA of 5.00. Pavano was even called out on his "injuries" by former teammate and Yankee great Mike Mussina. Over the course of his deal, Pavano accumulated a WAR of -.01.

Other failed contracts by the Yankees include, Jaret Wright, Kyle Farnsworth and Kei Igawa, among others.

In 2008, the Yankees failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 1993 season. Of course, this got the Yankees front office to work. With some big offseason names available in the 08-09 offseason, the Yankees were set to pounce.

On December 18, 2008, the Yankees announced the signings of starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia to a 7-year deal worth $161 million and A.J. Burnett to a 5-year deal worth $82.5 million. 

When Burnett was signed, nobody questioned his abilities. Everyone questioned his ability to stay healthy.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 07: A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch during the top of the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles on September 7, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Christopher Pasa
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

Burnett has been very durable for the Yankees, making at least 30 starts in each of his three seasons so far, never once hitting the deal. Now that's not to say he's been good in those starts, but he has been durable.

For most players, it's hard to live up to a $161 million contract, the richest ever for a pitcher, but so far C.C. Sabathia has maintained his expectations. 

Sabathia has been the Yankees ace, one they have needed since Mussina in the mid 2000's. He has led their staff for three years, averaging 20 wins per season and an ERA of 3.16.

On January 6, 2009, the Yankees inked first baseman Mark Teixeria to an 8-year deal worth $180 million.

Three years into the deal, Teixeira has posted great numbers for the Yankees. After an MVP-caliber 2009, Teix has slowed down a little bit offensively, but has still been great. Add in gold glove-caliber defense at first base, and you can see that Teix has been worth his contract.

But A.J. Burnett has been a different story. 

In 2009, Burnett went 14-9 with an ERA of 4.04. He pitched fine, exactly how the Yankees wanted him to. 

2010 and 2011 for Burnett have been just plain terrible. So far he is 20-26 with a 5.26 ERA. He has lost some very big games, and is all but out of the 2011 playoff rotation. For a guy that makes $16 million, he must play better.

Then why is his contract worth it? Because the Yankees won the World Series in 2009.

A team's main goal, above all, is to win the World Series. You can win as many MVPs as you want, Division Titles, Batting Titles, reach any milestone in any stat, but if you don't win the World Series, you have not achieved the number one goal. 

The Yankees played the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series. After losing Game 1 against a postseason pitching master in Cliff Lee, the Yankees relied on Burnett to win Game 2.

In the most important game of his career, Burnett came up big. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball, eventually handing over the ball to the immortal Mariano Rivera. 

The Yankees arguably would not have won the 2009 World Series without Burnett. A World Series victory is what a team wants, and any way they can get it is fine. Burnett contributed to that World Series for the Yankees.

So to completely answer the question is the contract a poor one, worth too much money for a pitcher who has an ERA in the mid 4's? Yes, but would I go back and re-sign the contract? Yes.


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