As we near the trading deadline, there is essentially one good pitcher left on the trade block – A.J. Burnett. Because of his ability to opt out of his contract at years end and their placement in the standings, the Blue Jays are willing to move him if the right offer comes along. But Burnett has always been something of an anomaly, so what is the right offer?
First, we have to know what we expect Burnett to do the rest of the year. For that, we’ll use Sal Baxamusa’s Quick-N-Dirty Marcel spreadsheet, which he made available a couple of weeks ago. Plugging Burnett’s numbers gives us an updated Marcel projection for the rest of the year, and produces the following results for Burnett:
84 IP, 82 H, 34 BB, 80 K, 9 HR, 3.73 ERA.
That’s right – Marcel is so effected by his struggles in the first half of the season that it actually projects him to do better in the second half than he did last year. That should tell you all you need to know about the predictive power of ERA right there.
So, if we do away with the idea that Burnett’s current 4.73 ERA is somehow his new true talent level, we see that Burnett is still quite capable of being a solid addition to a contender’s pitching staff down the stretch run. If he was replacing a guy with a 4.82 ERA projection, the difference between Burnett and that starter would be one full win, and most teams that would be trading for Burnett would be replacing starters even worse than that hypothetical.
A.J. Burnett isn’t Sabathia or Harden, but he’s not chopped liver either. If there’s a team that really wants to make a run at the title and needs a starter, they’d be wise to overlook Burnett’s reputation and pay for his expected performance.
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