The closer that a Yankees/Pirates trade of A.J. Burnett gets, the more fans are left wondering what exactly the right price is to make it happen. But before we get to the essential question, let's look at the facts:
2. Burnett is 35.
3. Burnett has started exactly 33 games in each of the past three seasons, totaling somewhere between 187-207 innings each.
4. His K/9 and his BB/9 over the same period are consistent with his career average of each (8.2 K/9, 3.8 BB/9), but his ERA is trending generally upwards, reaching 5.26 and 5.15 in 2010 and 2011. If you prefer ERA+, it's dropping. If you prefer WHIP, the last three seasons have been among his worst since he was in his early 20s.
5. The most telling counting stat to see go up for Burnett has been his home runs given up over the same period - 25, 25, and 31. I'll defer to my sabermetric betters to note those all come while pitching for the Yankees (and playing against the AL East).
6. While earning right around 3 wins above replacement each season from 2005-2009, Burnett's past two seasons have hovered somewhere between negative value and just one game above replacement (think: decent middle reliever with around 30 IP). If you're counting, that's two of his worst seasons in his career.
7. Burnett is still 35, and not getting younger.
Now, all of those are facts. Some are obviously context sensitive -- over the past three seasons, he's been with the Yankees, pitching at Yankees Stadium, and pitching against the murderer's row of the AL East. But we also know that something happens to pitchers once they reach their mid-30s, which most people call "getting old." I think we can safely put Burnett in that category, context be damned.
The rest of what we know is mostly speculation -- the Pirates are likely to trade a couple bottom rung prospects and the Yankees might eat most of that $35 million. I've seen the Pirates could be responsible for anything between $10 million - $14 million for the next two seasons.
And that brings us to the question of the hour: how much is A.J. Burnett worth over the next two seasons?