|The Yankees found a taker for embattled righthander A.J. Burnett and the two years and $33 million remaining on his contract, though they had to include $20 million to facilitate a trade with the Pirates. New York acquired a pair of longshot prospects from Pittsburgh in 25-year-old righthanded reliever Diego Moreno and 20-year-old left fielder Exicardo Cayones, who has spent his three pro seasons in short-season ball, including one in his native Venezuela.
Burnett pitched well enough in 2009, his first year with the Yankees, but he’s gone just 21-26, 5.20 in 66 appearances during the past two seasons (for a team that averaged 96 wins per season), which yielded an adjusted ERA that was 14 percent worse than the American League average, according to Baseball-Reference. The only AL-leading totals that Burnett posted as a member of the Yankees were for walks, hit batsmen and wild pitches (twice). He became redundant this offseason once New York acquired Michael Pineda in a trade with the Mariners and signed free agent Hiroki Kuroda.
The Yankees found a taker for Burnett by offering substantial salary relief, just as the Braves did when they moved Derek Lowe (5.05 ERA in 187 innings last year) to the Indians and the Cubs dealt Carlos Zambrano (4.82 ERA in 146 innings) to the Marlins. However, New York agreed to cover a smaller percentage of Burnett’s future earnings (about 60 percent) than Atlanta did with Lowe (about 67 percent) or Chicago did with Zambrano (about 86 percent).
|Diego Moreno, rhp
Born: July 21, 1986 in Higuerote, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 177. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Pirates, Aug. 21, 2006.
Despite obvious arm strength (he sits at 95-98 mph out of the bullpen) and a robust 26 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings, Moreno has scuffled in two tries at Double-A, running up a 1.39 WHIP and allowing 12 runs in 14 appearances. His command is spotty, thus he’s more hittable than he should be, but when he’s locating his fastball and backing it up with an 88 mph slider, Moreno can be nearly unhittable. He dealt with a sprained shoulder in 2010, the same season he also drew a club suspension for unprofessional conduct. Moreno is already 25 and has little experience above high Class A, yet some scouts like Moreno as a potential future closer. Despite this, 29 clubs passed on him during last winter’s Rule 5 draft.
|Exicardo Cayones, lf
Age: 20. Position: LF (28 G), RF (2 G).
Born: Oct. 9, 1991 in Valencia, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 183. Bats: L. Throws: L.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Pirates, July 4, 2008.
The Pirates signed Cayones for $400,000 three years ago, citing his ability to work the count and his lefty line-drive stroke. He profiles as a corner outfielder because of below-average running speed. Cayones went just 2-for-32 with short-season State College last season to earn a ticket back to the Gulf Coast League, where he turned in a solid effort. Playing in the Venezuelan League’s minor league, the Parallel League, this winter Cayones hit .370 in 92 at-bats and led the circuit with a .504 on-base percentage. (Contributing: Ben Badler.)
|A.J. Burnett, rhp
Age: 35. Remaining Commitment: 2 years, $33 million (Yankees send $20 million).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.