What about A.J.? Revisiting revamped Yankees rotation


A.J. Burnett could be the odd man out in the Yankees 2012 starting rotation. (Vernon Bryant/Dallas Morning News)

You just can’t predict baseball, or so says Yankees radio announcer John Sterling … over and over again. When it comes to the Yankees, you just can’t predict what they’ll do in the offseason (other than they will do something), and you never know when GM Brian Cashman is going to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Speaking of which, after their big moves a little over a week ago, it’s time to take another looking at the Yankee lineup, specifically the pitching staff.

The Bombers now have big, young righty Michael Pineda to slot into their rotation after acquiring him in a trade with the Mariners. New York had to part with top catching prospect and potential lethal hitter Jesus Montero in order to get him. They also signed veteran pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal at the same time the trade was announced. So here’s how the Yankees rotation should look coming into spring training:

  1. CC Sabathia
  2. Michael Pineda
  3. Ivan Nova
  4. Hiroki Kuroda
  5. Freddy Garcia/Phil Hughes/A.J. Burnett

The Yankees now have three guys competing for that fifth spot, which should prove to be interesting. Veteran Garcia was a success last year in the Bronx and one of the Yanks’ more consistent pitchers, which is why they brought him back for another round. If Hughes stays healthy, he could make a case for himself as a starter, but the Yankees could also use him in the bullpen where he played a key part in getting the 2009 team to the World Series.

As usual, Burnett is the real crapshoot. His hefty contract makes it almost a requirement to get him on the mound every fifth day. Of course, you never know if you’re going to get the unhittable version or the version that walks everyone including the third back-up catcher.

If the Yankees could dump A.J. in a trade, you’d have to think they’d do it in a heartbeat. It would have to be a like-for-like bad contract swap. Now that Montero, who was supposed to fill the DH role, is gone, they need another bat for the DH/bench. Among the names that have come up include former Yankee and current Cub Alfonso Soriano. A more intriguing proposition could be a crosstown swap: Jason Bay for A.J. Burnett.

Bay’s bat may benefit from the hitter friendly Yankee Stadium and Burnett may have an easier time in pitcher-friendly CitiField. But the Yankees already have the right side of their bench as they brought back Andruw Jones. They may be more inclined to sign a left-handed hitter such as Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon, both former players who benefited greatly from the Stadium’s short porch. That means the Bombers maybe stuck with the erratic Burnett for another year.

As the old saying goes, you can never have too much pitching. Having too many arms for the rotation is certainly a big improvement over where the Yankees were just a little over a week ago.


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