In mid-February, the Pirates and Yankees completed a trade that sent right-hander A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh. Some fans were pumped for the trade, while others were skeptical. Burnett never lived up to the hype in New York; he was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA in three seasons there. Would he be a veteran leader for a young team? Or was he just another washed-up, wasted acquisition? We seem to have our answer.
It wasn’t clear at first – he had an 8.04 ERA in his first three outings, including a 12 run debacle in St. Louis. However, Burnett went on an incredible run from mid-May to early-July, winning nine straight decisions. He held a 2.93 ERA during that stretch.
With his performance on Thursday, Burnett became the first Pirate since Todd Ritchie in 1999 to win 15 games in a season. The 12-year span was the longest drought without a 15-game winner in MLB history. He also told Hanley Ramirez to “sit the f— down” after he struck him out. Here’s what Dejan Kovacevic had to say:
“Burnett didn’t pitch great. Six runs is six runs. But he was still standing out there in the seventh, still showing he was competing. You can sense the effect that has on the team, on the crowd. Intangibles do count. And the Pirates have NO CHOICE but to keep using him every fifth day in the rotation.”
The Pirates got their name in the early 1900’s by “pirating” players from other teams. The A.J. trade seems to be quite a steal itself. The Yankees are still paying a large portion of his salary, and the Bucs only gave up two low-level prospects, Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno. Not only is New York literally paying A.J. to pitch in Pittsburgh, but the Pirates didn’t give up much talent.
Cayones, a 20-year old outfielder, has hit just .192 in 35 games for the Staten Island Yankees. Moreno, a 26-year old pitcher, apparently hasn’t even pitched this season; he had a 4.91 ERA for Altoona in 2011.
We love watching Burnett pitch and we have confidence in him every fifth day. The Bucs have won 18 of his 22 starts. He’s turned into a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, and rightfully so.
A big thank you goes to the New York Yankees for giving A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates.