Free Agent Forecast – A.J. Burnett

hAs the season is beginning to wind down we can start looking ahead not just to the 2009 fantasy season, but what should be an exciting off-season as well.  With a decent crop of free agents on the horizon, I thought it would be fun to start predicting who is going to go where and why.  We will still continue our typical fantasy coverage, but I’ll throw one of these in every now and then, just as a change of pace.

The first player I am going to look at is A.J. Burnett, who I know is not technically a free agent at year’s end.  Still, with that opt-out clause looming and plenty of teams just itching to spend on pitching, I’d be shocked if he didn’t exercise the clause.

Does it mean he is definitely going to leave?  Absolutely not, but chances are the Blue Jays are not going to ante up the type of money that other teams will, and that is fair.  I can’t say that he has lived up to his potential this season.  While he has managed to stay healthy, throwing 193.1 innings to date, he has posted a 4.47 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.  Those are manageable numbers, but certainly not the type of production the Blue Jays, or fantasy owners, had hoped for.

The positives, though, are his 16 wins and the 201 K he’s amassed.  Not many pitchers eclipse 200 strikeouts in a season, and with a few more starts coming (he has two this week against the White Sox and Red Sox), 225 or more seems quite realistic.

Calling the AL East home, it is important to note how he has done against the Yankees and Red Sox, two of the better offenses in baseball:

  • Yankees: 3-1, 1.78 ERA, 32 K in 30.1 IP
  • Red Sox: 1-0, 3.07 ERA, 12 K in 14.2 IP

For one season, that’s spectacular, and it shows that he has been able to step up when the spotlight is brightest.  But what about last season?

  • Yankees: 1-0, 0.60 ERA, 13 K in 15 IP
  • Red Sox: 1-0, 3.12 ERA, 11 K in 8.2 IP

As you can see, the fact that he’s excelled against those teams this season doesn’t appear to be a fluke.

With that in mind, I am going to make my prediction that the New York Yankees sign him this off-season.  Considering that they currently are depending on Carl Pavano in the rotation, as well as using guys like Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner, it is no secret that they need to upgrade behind Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain (and maybe Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina). 

Could Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy be the answer?  Possibly, but at this point I don’t think the Yankees will depend on them.  Given the way the Yankees played this season, it would surprise me if at least one of the young pitchers is packaged as part of a deal, just making the need to sign a veteran that much greater.

They want a dependable arm for the rotation and by snagging him away, they no longer will have to face him.  You know the old saying, if you can’t beat him, join him.  Well, that’s exactly what I see the Yankees doing.

What does everyone else think?  Where do you see A.J. Burnett landing for next season?  Will he stay with the Blue Jays?  Will he sign with the Yankees?  Will he sign somewhere else?  Let’s hear your thoughts.

One comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree, I think he’ll be a Yankee next season. They are freeing up about $60 mil next year, you know they will spend that on a few guys like Burnett, Teixeira and possibly even Sabathia, but i’m sure you’ll get into that in another article. As long as he’s healthy, Burnett is a stud k pitcher with great potential in the rest of his numbers…put him on the Yanks and he’ll win 15-18 games with his norm 200+ k’s.

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