The story is covered in length by the New York Post's George A. King III here. The most interesting excerpt I found, though, was this:
"And the Yankees, who had $88 million come off the books after a very discouraging 2008 season, still have money to chase Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets, Andy Pettitte and possibly Mark Teixeira or Manny Ramirez."Now, before getting to the fantasy impact of A.J. Burnett's arrival, I have to weigh in and say that I cannot see the Yankees chasing Derek Lowe or Mark Teixeira of all the names listed above. Its been made apparent that the 5th spot in the Yankees rotation belongs to Pettitte, if he wants it. If not, enter Ben Sheets. It's about as simple as that.
Again, I'm not going to pick up the Manny Ramirez torch, but, as I outline here, I think Manny would absolutely accept the same offer the Dodgers made (2 years, 50 million) if it was offered by the Yankees. He would then be the team's full-time DH and clean-up hitter for 2009-2010.
Aside from all this housekeeping, let's get down to the meat-and-potatoes of this post: A.J. Burnett. In Ron Shandler's 2008 Forecaster, he classifies Burnett as a PWR-GB (Power-Ground ball pitcher). Essentially, this classification is defined by a pitcher whose GB rate is over 50% and who limits balls in play by strikeouts, walks, or both. In Burnett's case, let's take a look at the numbers:
2006: 135 IP, 118 K's, 39 BB
2007: 165 IP, 176 K's, 66 BB
2008: 221 IP, 231 K's, 86 BB
Okay... so his BB/9 for 2006-2008 are 2.6, 3.6, and 3.5; which aren't the greatest... but aren't horrible either. I like to see semi-consistent numbers here because we'll have an indication of what to expect in 2009. His K/9, on the other-hand, is ridiculous (2006-2008): 7.8, 9.6, and 9.4. Again, a pretty good model of consistency over the past three seasons.
Consistency, statistically-speaking, hasn't been the problem with Burnett. Consistency, medically-speaking, has. For this reason, drafting Burnett will always be a risky situation. Judging his fantasy value is easy. If healthy, he'll be dominant in a fantasy league. However, is drafting Burnett the most cost-effective approach to winning?
Looking at the difference in offense, the 2007 Yankees scored 215 more runs than the 2007 Blue Jays while batting, as a team, 31-points higher (.290). The bullpens, tell a bit of a different story, though. IN 2007, the Toronto bullpen features a 2.94 ERA in 425 IP, nearly an earned-run less than the Yankees' 3.79 ERA in 543 IP (thanks for Baseball-Reference for the help).
While the Yankees' 2009 bullpen will not be a carbon copy of their 2008 counterparts, there is no, I repeat: no, way they're going to put up a 2.94 bullpen ERA. And while Burnett won't necessarily need the help from the bullpen... it would definitely be a nice cushion to fall back on for those rough nights.
Listen, all this is arbitrary at this point. Entering the 2009 baseball season, A.J. Burnett is going to be ranked in the Top-10 starting pitchers of every fantasy board. I would try to avoid being the team that drafts him because of the injury problems. There are two ways to avoid this problem: (A) draft a better SP early and put the pressure on your opponents to pull-the-trigger on Brunett, or (B) draft Burnett with a pick, then draft a high-end SP with the following pick for insurance.
If you're like me, you're allergic to the high-maintenance fantasy pitchers like Burnett, and likely choose 'Option-A.' I enjoy seeing people forced into drafting players they don't whole-heartedly love... and leaving a Burnett out on the table should put a rival in that more-than-precarious situation.