A.J. Burnett likely to find new life in Pittsburgh

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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.

Mike Napoli tore his ACL

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Mike Napoli suffered a torn right ACL and meniscus while playing for Triple-A Columbus the other night. The injury will require season-ending surgery.

Given that Napoli will turn 37 this year, given that he will need 10-14 months of rehab and given that, as it was, he was unable to find a major league gig, it’s almost certain that this injury will end Napoli’s career.

Napoli was off to a 1-for-24 start at Columbus after signing a minor league contract with the Indians this spring. He hit .193/.285/.428 for the Rangers in 2017. If this is it for Napoli, he’ll end his career with a line of .246/.346/.475 with 267 homers and 744 driven in. He appeared in the World Series with the 2011 Rangers, the 2013 Red Sox and the 2016 Indians, winning a ring with Boston.