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The Jays Shouldn’t Trade Burnett

I’m just going to go ahead and say it – contrary to popular opinion and widespread rumors, the Toronto Blue Jays are not going to trade A.J. Burnett before the July 31 trade deadline. At least, they shouldn’t.

Granted, the Jays have next to no chance of making the playoffs this year, so you could easily make the case that it’s time to begin selling off any pieces of short-term value for long-term help. In fact, it’s so easy to set out the argument that I will, for you.

The argument goes like this – the Jays aren’t making the playoffs, and Burnett can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, so the Jays should get something for him while they can. This goes for other players who won’t help in the long run, too (though the team has little of value to deal). The logic is that if you can’t win now, you should do everything you can to make winning easier in the future. Additionally, Burnett is making close to $12M this year, and you would therefore be off the hook for about $4M of that if you dealt him this month. That money, they say, could be rolled over to next year’s payroll.

That’s all fine and dandy, but there are four major hang ups with that logic.

First, the Jays won’t lose Burnett for nothing if he opts out of his deal. The way baseball works, depending on who Burnett signed with the Jays would receive anywhere from one sandwich pick (between the first two rounds) to a first round pick and a sandwich pick. While that haul is a high-risk one because of the unpredictability of the drafting process, it is comparable in overall value to what Burnett would command on the trade market. There is not another Matt LaPorta for trade, especially not for a pitcher who is almost certainly a rental player (just ask the Yankees). The Jays wouldn’t lose Burnett for nothing, and trading him now isn’t a sure-fire way to ensure a better return.

Second, the Jays may not even lose Burnett. While the market would appear to command a lot more money for Burnett than he is currently making, he is also still largely considered a high-risk player. Yes, he would certainly make more than $11-12M on the open market, but he’s not guaranteed to get a long term deal or one that is significantly more lucrative. 3 years and $40M sounds better than 2 years and $24M, but on the odd chance Burnett likes Toronto (it does, after all, have his good friends Roy Halladay and Brad Arnsberg), he may find it worthwhile to work out an extension or renegotiate with the Jays.

Third, it should be noted that any money saved the rest of the season probably won’t be rolled over into next year’s payroll. While Ted Rogers lays out rough 3-year rolling budgets for the team’s payroll, there is nothing in place to guarantee $4M saved now will be spent next year, especially after several mediocre seasons with higher-than-usual payroll. It couldn’t hurt, really, but it’s not a guaranteed aid for 2009.

Fourth, it is always extremely risky to have an albatross GM making moves to save his job. It’s no secret that J.P. Ricciardi’s job is on the line, at least under examination, this offseason. Giving him free reign to make deals that he may not be around to see the results of is a risk the Jays probably shouldn’t take. We’ve seen GMs make bad moves at the ends of their tenures before, and it’s fair that anyone would act in their best interest (against the team’s, maybe), so putting a limit on what Ricciardi can do is a sound move.

And two final notes, just because I’m on a ranting roll: One, Halladay and Burnett are friends and the team just fired Halladay’s pal John Gibbons…might not be good business to remove all of your star’s friends; Two, there is some baseball left to be played, tickets left to be sold, and hope to be instilled for 2009, so winning games now is still important, and Burnett helps the team do just that.

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2 Responses to “The Jays Shouldn’t Trade Burnett”

  1. Pope Says:

    Tonight may have been yet another sign to keep him and Doc together. Thats six of their last seven for the blue birds!

  2. khandor Says:


    Now’s the time for the Jays to be making a push for the top of the division … with Boston, New York and (even) Tampa Bay treading water (or paddling in reverse) right now.

    Having Cito Gaston & Gene Tenace back on board makes a big difference to the aura surrounding this team.

    Considering the absences of Wells, Marcum, McGowan and the M.I.A. performance of Litsch, it’s a significant feat they have now reached 2 games above .500, post-John Gibbons.

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