I don’t have some kind of private line to Chris Antonetti, where we call and chat about team decisions. Therefore, it’s pretty obvious that anything I may happen to write has no bearing on what actually happens to the Cleveland Indians. I still think it’s important to fess up when I’m wrong, and admit that sometimes the views I advocate don’t necessarily turn out for the best. In this instance, I’m referring to the offseason rumors about the Indians acquiring A.J. Burnett from the Yankees. I actually had two posts on the subject – one where I threw the idea of a Burnett for Hafner trade out there, and another where I basically said, “please don’t ever actually do this.” As it stands right now, Hafner has been out of action for about a month, while Burnett is just tearing it up for the Pittsburgh Pirates and will go for his ninth straight win today. Outside of one bad start, Burnett has been almost flawless. Hindsight is obviously 20/20, but I may have been too quick to condemn this deal.
I first tossed the idea out there back on February 12, looking at the pros and cons of a Hafner for Burnett swap. I determined in the end, that even though Hafner is injured often and overpaid, the Indians still have a better lineup with him in it. Burnett seemed like such wild card due to his inconsistencies, and I figured he probably wouldn’t offer anything more than what you could get from a combination of Jeanmar Gomez, Zach McAllister, and David Huff. By Valentine’s Day, it seemed like Hafner for Burnett could be gaining steam and I wrote a post more forcefully against a potential deal. One of the major reasons I was so against the deal (aside from the fact that I thought the Indians had comparable in-house options) was the fact that the Indians needed hitters way more than pitchers. I really expected Hafner to spend at least some amount of time on the DL again; I just figured that when he was healthy, he was more valuable than Burnett. The Indians do, in fact, still need hitters, but they’ve also had so much inconsistency with their starters this season, they really could have used someone reliable, like the 2012 version Burnett.
While he is pitching in the National League, all of Burnett’s arsenal seems to be working for him. There’s no reason to believe that this success couldn’t have been transferred over to the American League. I thought that the Yankees wouldn’t be willing to eat a ton of the $31.1 million remaining on his salary over the next two years, but the Pirates will only pay $13 million. So far with the Bucs in 2012, Burnett is 9-2 with a 3.31 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 69 strikeouts. If you remove the May 2 game against St. Louis where Burnett allowed 12 runs in 2.2 innings pitched, he hasn’t allowed more than 3 earned runs in a start all season. He has 9 wins, despite the fact that the Pirates had one of the worst offenses in baseball (even though they’ve hit much better recently).
With the way the Indians are with luck, if Burnett had come here he’d probably end up terrible and/or injured. Hafner would be batting approximately .700 in New York right now, with 35 home runs. Since Hafner has been gone from the lineup for several weeks anyway, I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if the Indians had pulled the trigger on the Burnett deal. Despite my emphatic opposition back in February, I now find myself wondering if the Indians didn’t make a mistake by letting Burnett fall to Pittsburgh.