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Yanks Should Thank Burnett for Vetoing LA Deal

By Joseph Delgrippo ~ February 21st, 2012. Filed under: Digest Contributors, New York Yankees.

According to a tweet the other night by Buster Olney, the Philadelphia Phillies attempted to trade pitcher Joe Blanton to the Los Angeles Angels for OF/DH Bobby Abreu, then planned to flip Abreu to the New York Yankees for A.J. Burnett

My first thought was how much cash would the Phillies have wanted the Yankees to kick in to cover Burnett’s much larger salary? I tweeted Olney asking if the Phillies would have eaten Burnett’s contract. (Hey, you never know with Ruben Amaro Jr.). He replied that the Phillies were also looking to have the Yankees fork over some dollars. I presume to the Phillies would have liked to equal out the salaries.

That would have been about the same money the Yankees are eating by trading Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but would cost the Yankees more for their salary structure by having Abreu on the roster.  Since the Yankees tried to trade Burnett to the Angels directly for Abreu, it appears they believed the former Yankee was worth the extra money for the 2012 season.

That attempted direct trade by the Yankees and Angels was killed by Burnett, who used his partial no-trade clause to veto going to the West Coast. According to this report, this was due to a fear of flying by A.J.’s wife.  That appears legitimate. One clause in A.J.’s contract with the Toronto Blue Jays was eight round-trip limousine trips per season between Toronto and Maryland (Burnett’s home) for A.J.’s wife.  That is more than one trip per month of the season and quite a long ride. Only reason to endure a long ride like that is if you are afraid of flying.

A.J. has no such clause in his current contract.

Also, it appears the Angels did not think Blanton was worth giving up Abreu. If so, it was a good call by them.

Going to the Phillies would have been great for Burnett. He would be a much closer ride to his Maryland home, allowed him to be with fellow Arkansas native Cliff Lee (both are friends and have the same agent), and most importantly, given him a better opportunity to pitch in another World Series.

Conspiracy question just for fun’s sake: did the Angles not do the Blanton/Abreu/Burnett three-way swap because A.J. nixed the straight up Burnett for Abreu deal?

But even though the trades never materialized, if they really wanted Bobby back in pinstripes could they have expanded the trade to get the Angels to agree on taking Blanton? Would the Yankees have been better off with Abreu and his $9 million salary, or the recently signed Raul Ibanez and his $1.1 million salary?

Both former Phillies outfielders are coming off down seasons, arguably the worst of their careers.

Abreu slashed a .253/.353/.365/.717 line for the season and was a little better (primarily his SLG) against RHP with a .259/.366/.400/.766 line. Ibanez slashed a .245/.289/.419/.707 line for the season and was also a little better against RHP with a .256/.307/.440/.747 line.

Not much of a difference in OPS when facing right-handers, with Abreu giving you much more of an OBP while Ibanez likely gives a team more power. While Abreu should hit a few more HRs in Yankees Stadium, it won’t be much more. Abreu has always been the higher OBP guy, usually a full hundred points over his batting average.

But is that worth about $8 million more per season? I don’t think so.

Each guy would be used primarily against RHP and should generate about 350 PA for the 2012 season. Abreu might get more PAs since he is still adept at generating free passes from LHP, but since Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are going to be given half days once a week, Abreu would still sit the bench most times a RHP starts the game.

Based upon Abreu’s OBP against RHP last season, 350 PAs gets him on base 129 times, while Ibanez’ OBP would get him on base 108 times. Assuming similar power numbers for each player from last year, would 21 more times on base by Abreu be worth $8 million more dollars? That would be 21 times on base over approximately 110 or so starts as designated hitter.

I don’t think so. When you break down the amount of times a part time player gets on base over another player, I would always go for the better power guy and higher slugging percentage. So I have to ask why the Yankees even tried to trade A.J. for Abreu when Ibanez and other lefty DH types were already out there and available?

It turns out Burnett’s wife’s fear of the friendly skies led to the Yankees making the better move, but it might have cost her and her husband another chance at a World Series.

Joseph Delgrippo is an aspiring sportswriter and TV baseball analyst. He played NCAA baseball, at tiny Marietta (OH) College, participating in the Division 3 World Series. In addition, he's coached baseball at the high school level. His knowledge of this game goes far beyond what is shown on television.
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