It is no secret that Sandy Alderson plans to add a veteran starter this off-season to join the young guns in the Mets rotation. But Mets Blog reported Friday a bit of a revelation — that Alderson plans to spend $10 million on said pitcher. The report mentioned A.J. Burnett as one pitcher who could likely be had for that amount. I say absolutely not.
Burnett resurrected his career the past two years in Pittsburgh, going a combined 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA and averaging nearly a strikeout per inning. He is also said to be a positive influence in the clubhouse, mentoring young pitchers on how to be a major leaguer.
That is all well and good, but let’s not forget his previous three years with the Yankees. A.J. Burnett was a high-priced flop, compiling a 34-35 record with a 4.79 ERA. Perhaps the glare of New York was too much for the Arkansas native. Pitching in Flushing is much different than throwing in The Bronx, but the media spotlight is the same.
In addition to his possible New York phobia, Burnett turns 37 in January. How long could he be expected to pitch effectively?
These red flags point to A.J. Burnett being the wrong man for the Mets, especially at $10 million. Incidentally, I don’t think the Mets should spend that much for a starter. With bigger needs elsewhere and a limited budget, the Mets would be smarter to put that money towards a couple of bats and give Daisuke Matsuzaka or Aaron Harang longer looks. Both pitched well in their September auditions and would cost a fraction of that price tag.
Or they could spend a little more and go with a pitcher with a higher upside, such as Phil Hughes. The 27-year-old Hughes had a putrid year with the Yankees and might be amenable to a one-year contract in an attempt to rebuild his value. I’ll bet he could be had for about $6 million. That seems to be Alderson’s price; I predict that he signs several free agents (Jhonny Peralta? James Loney?) at around that price point.