Found February 12, 2012 on
Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug As I alluded to in my most recent article, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been so terrible for so long that even when they want to bring in free agents that could potentially help reverse the team’s plight, the players don’t want to come here.  It’s a Catch-22 of baseball boobery.  As obvious as this seems, I doubt the Pirates actually expected this response; I believe they stubbornly assumed they could run a team however they liked, and then immediately flip a switch, and mid-range free agents would find Pittsburgh just as desirable as any other MLB franchise.  Clearly not the case. Image credit janeheller Which brings us to the A.J. Burnett trainwreck that is unfolding before our eyes.  For some unexplained reason, Burnett never included the Pirates as one of the teams on his “do not trade” list during his last contract extension with the Yankees.  As I write this at 6AM on Sunday morning, Burnett is not yet a Pirate- the deal seems hung up on the Pirates’ unwillingness to part with platoon OF Garrett Jones.  Regardless of whether Jones ends up in Pinstripes, at this point, my *guess* is that Burnett will be a Pirate by the start of Spring Training: The Yankees appear desperate to unload him and as much of his contract albatross as they can, while the Pirates suddenly seem desperate to add another SP, despite having all offseason to do so.   These negotiations uncomfortably showcase the overall failure of GM Neal Huntington and club President Frank Coonelly’s tenures, and baldly exemplify the team’s TOTAL lack of direction.  Consider any of the following: 1.  At the start of the offseason, the Pirates let SP Paul Maholm walk for absolutely nothing, refusing to pick up his 2 contract option years, because they deemed them too expensive.  Not only were the option years worth about what Burnett is making now per season, but the Pirates themselves agreed to the amounts when they negotiated the original extension with Maholm! 2.  Over the past 3 seasons, A.J. Burnett has the highest ERA in baseball among SP who have made at least 90 starts.  He’s 35, making $10MM+ over each of the next 3 seasons, and has a well-documented attitude to boot.  If these aren’t warning flags, I don’t know what are.  This potentially could be worse than former GM Dave Littlefield’s Matt Morris mistake, which helped get the GM fired. 3.  Maholm (105 ERA+) was by far the better pitcher last season, and is 5 years younger than Burnett (86 ERA+).  For a team that’s supposed to be rebuilding with youth, Neal Huntington has spent his entire offseason acquiring guys well on the wrong side of 30.   Which brings me to the Pirates’ ”internal options.”  Over the past 4 years, both Huntington and Coonelly have puffed their chests about building up the “depth” of the entire Pirates’ minor league system.  They’ve made unpopular trades to build up this “depth”, and they’ve now had their hand in 4 full drafts to reinforce this “depth.”  So where’s the depth? 4.  The Pirates wasted $11,000,000 on 2 years of subpar, 33-year old SS Clint Barmes, because there were no internal options. 5.  The Pirates wasted $4,000,000-7,500,000 (option year) on 36-year old C Rod Barajas, because there were no internal options. 6.  The Pirates TRIED to pay 36-year old 1B Derrek Lee between $5,000,000-7,000,000, because they felt there were no internal options.  They’re now working out 36-yeard old 1B Dmitri Young for the same reason, despite 1B being the easiest position on the diamond to find young power bats.  And by the way, Young hasn’t played a MLB game since 2008…so the Pirates have that going for them. 7.  In Huntington’s only potentially good free agent acquisition of the offseaon, they signed 33-year old SP Erik Bedard, because there were no internal options.  They continue to pursue A.J. Burnett because there are no internal options, despite Huntington and Coonelly always emphasizing the importance of building up starting pitching depth. 8.  The remainder of their rotation as it now stands- Charlie Morton, Jeff Karstens, James McDonald, Kevin Correia- consists entirely of players brought in from other organizations via trade (Morton, Karstens, McDonald), or signed as free agents (Correia).  Huntington has yet to have 1 starting pitcher he drafted pitch meaningful innings for the Pirates. 9.  The same can be said for the Pirates’ bullpen.  In fact, the only homegrown arm currently projected to come north with the team in spring- RP Tony Watson- was a Dave Littlefield draftee in 2007. The two best bats the Pirates have; Image credit tumblr 10.  And despite Littlefield being the worst GM in recent MLB history (though Huntington is surely giving him a run for his money), until Pedro Alvarez wakes up and slims down, the Pirates’ two best regulars- CF Andrew McCutchen and 2B Neil Walker- are both Dave Littlefield draftees. 11.  Out of the players projected to start in the field for the Pirates, 3 are Littlefield draftees (OF Alex Presley), while only 1 was picked during Huntington’s tenure (Alvarez). 12.  Despite their apparent willingness to spend MILLIONS on aging, unproductive veterans, the Pirates have spent the entire offseason blackballing star OF Andrew McCutchen on a contract extension, as I wrote about here and here and here and here.   This team is terribly managed.  Despite allusions to the contrary, the Pirates have little to no depth in the upper levels of their minor league system.  (In fact, the Bucs’ best upper level prospect- OF Starling Marte- was once again a Dave Littlefield draftee.  For a GM regarded as a terrible talent evaluator, Neal Huntington sure does seem to have his hands full trying to match Littlefield’s “success.”) Further, the club clearly makes moves that directly contradict their supposed direction.  They’ve spent the offseason stocking the roster with old, declining veterans, yet gush frequently about the team’s youth movement.  They let younger, productive players like Maholm and C Ryan Doumit walk for nothing, only to turn around and sign expensive retreads in their stead. Some wonder whether the timing of this most recent indulgence (prior to Burnett, the Pirates attempted to give both Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt paydays in the $10,000,000 range, only to be rebuffed) came from Major League Baseball starting to put heat on the Nutting ownership for yet another league-low payroll.  Obviously, it’s only speculation at this point, but the timing certainly is interesting. Regardless, this team is a trainwreck, and we’re about to see the results of it for 6 months straight. Thanks for reading?

Why Do The Pirates Want A.J. Burnett?

First of all, yes, I’ll admit it: I’m eating my words right now. After writing my aggressively-headlined “Good Luck Shopping A.J. Burnett, Yanks” piece on Wednesday, it turns out the Yankees have found at least one potential suitor for Burnett in the Pirates. The two sides are still haggling over how much money the Yankees should eat, but considering the Yankees’ incentive...

Trading Burnett For Nothing Hurts Pitching Depth

You need pitching depth to get through a 162-game schedule. I recently spoke to a big league pitching coach who told me it was important to leave camp with about 18 pitchers  that could realistically contribute at the big league level. Of those 18, you probably need 10 that could start a ballgame. Knowing how important depth is to making the playoffs, I wonder if the rumored deal...

Yankees starter Burnett may be headed to Pirates

The Pirates and the New York Yankees continued to discuss a trade Friday that would send Yankees starter A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh, according to an industry source.

Report: Yankees, Pirates close to deal for RHP Burnett

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett could be head to the Pittsburgh Pirates soon.According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the teams have placed the framework together for a deal that would send the right-hander to Pittsburgh, which has been the favorite to land Burnett this offseason. While players and money have not been finalized, rumors speculate that the Pirates would have...

Bombers, Bucs still talking Burnett deal

The momentum for the Yankees and Pirates to complete a deal in which A.J. Burnett would move to Pittsburgh stayed strong last night, though the teams remained apart both on dollars and the type of prospects that would be included. The Yankees continued to talk to two other clubs...

Still waiting on AJ

The Pirates and Yankees are still trying to work out an A.J. Burnett trade. It seems that most people close to the situation agree that it’s going to happen eventually, but the teams are still negotiating how much of Burnett’s salary the Bucs will pay and what prospects the Bucs will send to New York. Pretty much everything in the update I posted on Friday still applies, which...

AJ Burnett – The Latest We Love to Hate

New York is a tough city to play professional sports in.  You are expected to succeed each and every time you are on the field.    If you are not, the fans let you know it.  If you are a high priced player and you fail, the fans will never forget to remind you that you are not living up to their expectations.   As Ol’ Blue Eyes sang, if you can make it here, you can make...

Yankees on verge of dealing erratic righty to Pirates

A.j. Burnett is on the brink of becoming an ex-Yankee. An industry source yesterday confirmed the Pirates and Yankees have the outline of a deal in place that would send Burnett to Pittsburgh. Three other teams also are believed to have interest in the erratic right-hander. Burnett is owed...

Why Are Yanks Dumping Burnett For 30-Year Old Platoon Player?

.bbpBox{background:url( #131516;padding:20px;} Garrett Jones is, in fact, the guy NYY want in any Burnett deal with the Pirates,but PIT not interested in moving Jones. No traction so far.Thu Feb 09 23:19:30 via webBuster OlneyBuster_ESPN The rumors of A.J. Burnett going to Pittsburgh are heating up. Buster...

Open Mike 02-10-12 Super Bowl XLVI Part 2

On part two of the Open Mike program from February 10, 2012, Michael Cohen and Karen Vankat talk about the potential moves that could be made by the New York Yankees in the coming weeks. Will the Bombers trade A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Garrett Jones? What does it mean for the Yankees rotation? Mike and Karen also go back over the Super Bowl, and what the...
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