Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Salvaging a Sunken Cost
You can make a case that A.J. Burnett has negative value right now. While he does project to be above replacement level in CAIRO, it’s important to remember that the idea of replacement level is an abstraction. When thinking about it practically, a replacement level player shouldn’t necessarily be a freely available player. It can be a player in your organization who projects to be better than replacement level but is behind other players on the team’s depth chart.
Burnett projects to have an RA of 5.03 in CAIRO. The following possible starting pitchers project better than that.
CC Sabathia (3.57)
Michael Pineda (4.37)
Freddy Garcia (4.55)
Brad Meyers (4.56)
Hiroki Kuroda (4.57)
Phil Hughes (4.63)
Ivan Nova (4.93)
Projecting is an inexact science, but aside from Brad Meyers who we just don’t know much about yet, I’d expect all of those pitchers to pitch better than Burnett in 2012.
If that’s true, then every start that goes to Burnett is a start that should be going to one of the above. There’s also an opportunity cost in denying starts to any of the pitching prospects that may have developed to the point of also being better than Burnett, including but not limited to Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Adam Warren and David Phelps.
Unfortunately, since Burnett is owed $33 million over the next two years, the Yankees probably feel obligated to try and get some value out of him.
I don’t think they can do that by pitching him. So thinking about the question EB in LA asked in the previous post about trading Burnett’s bad contract to another team for their bad contract might be a way to recoup some of that value.
EB mentioned Adam Dunn, Jason Bay, Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano.
This table shows the remaining guaranteed money owed to the four potential hitters (in millions) and their projected WAR as DHs, assuming a 0.5 WAR decrease per season.
Trading Burnett for Jason Bay makes a lot of sense to me. The Mets are cash-strapped and their starting rotation is thin. For the cost of $2M above the money spent on Burnett, the Yankees could conceivably pick up 3.6 WAR. Lee would be even better since you’re only committed to one year but that $18.5M difference in guaranteed money probably means the Yankees would have to eat a large chunk of money. Dunn projects better than Lee and worse than Bay but he’s still owed $44M and his 2011 was so bad that I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s effectively done as an MLB hitter. Soriano doesn’t make any sense to me since he is the most expensive of the group despite projecting to be the least valuable of them.
Bay may not have much left, but his park is a tough one for hitters so he might surprise in a disgraceful bandbox. He’s probably restricted to DH since he’s not a good fielder, although I suppose he could play an occasional game in LF against a lefty. Then again, none of the other players are much different in that regard.
So sign me up as pro for a Burnett/Bay swap.
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