It’s a small sample size for sure, but when Jeremy Guthrie was traded earlier this month, I pointed out how the last nine established starting pitchers to leave the AL East lowered their ERAs by an average of a full run upon setting up shop elsewhere.
If A.J. Burnett can keep that up after the Yankees and Pirates agreed to a trade Friday, the 35-year-old right-hander is looking at an ERA right around 4.00 this season.
After a successful first season in New York, Burnett finished with ERAs of 5.26 and 5.15 in his final two years in Pinstripes. Given that he’s a two-pitch pitcher who has lost something off his fastball, it’s easy to see why the Yankees wanted to move on.
Still, Burnett did manage to strike out 173 batters in 190 1/3 innings last season. Now that he’ll get to face pitchers instead of designated hitters, he could fan even more batters this season. And he’s going from baseball’s toughest division for pitchers to what might be its easiest in the NL Central. Burnett had a 6.22 ERA in AL East play last season. In 2010, it was 5.82.
So, no, Burnett is no longer worth anywhere near $17 million per season. But $13 million over two years, which is what the Pirates will be paying him, seems like a pretty fair price. Once one of the game’s most injury-prone starters, Burnett has no made 32 starts four years running. He’s not going to lead the Pirates back to the postseason, but he should be an asset.