Did the LA Angels miss a great opportunity with AJ Burnett?

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past week, you may have missed the news on an Abreu-Burnett swap that was gracefully voided by A.J Burnett due to the Angels being in his no trade clause. What a bullet we dodged with that one, right? Burnett is an over-the-hill veteran, like Abreu, who has managed to pitch to Kazmirian levels of ineptitude the past two seasons. There’s no reason the Angels would need, or even want a player like him on this squad. That kind of trade would only negatively affect this roster, wouldn’t you think? On the surface it may seem that way, but if start to dig a little deeper you might see that it’s possible this was a missed opportunity for the Halos. 

Burnett 

Then again, this is the guy who tried to go head to head against a clubhouse door 

At first, it may seem like the only plus side of this trade would be getting Abreu off of our hands in a DH market in which Abreu has little to no value, which would have opened up the gates to allow Wells, Morales, Trumbo, and Pujols to enter a revolving door at DH and give Mike Trout some steady ML ABs. A.J Burnett has aged far past his skillset, leaving him a pitcher who can no longer control the ball (evident by his 41 Wild Pitches in the past 2 years) in addition to a drop in his fastball speed (from 94 MPH in ’09 to 92 in ’11). Back in 2009 Burnett was throwing a 95+ MPH heater one out of every fifth pitch, which drops drastically to 1 in every 250 pitches thrown, not to forget the drop in his general fastball effectiveness, seeing only 1 miss in every 8 swings on his heater (third worst in majors among 77 pitchers who threw at least 500 pitches). His effectiveness as a pitcher has gone far down from what he used to be, though he can still be penciled in for 180+ IP, something that would have greatly benefited this highly worked starting rotation. Oh, and let’s not forget that he hasn’t been able to keep his ERA below 5 in the past two years. It can’t be all bad though, there’s gotta be some sunshine and happiness in the details, right?

Well, not when it comes to A.J Burnett, though the good that would have come from this trade would not have been from the performances he would be giving every 5th day. Instead, it would have come from the relief he would have given the roster. Getting rid of Abreu would allow Wells and Trout to work LF regularly, with Wells taking the occasional AB’s at DH when Kendrys and Trumbo aren’t spinning through that revolving door. We all know Trumbo isn’t going to play 150 games at 3rd, he might not even crack more than 20, but opening up more room in the DH spot would have kept his powerful bat in the lineup, which is extremely important for a growing player of his caliber. Pujols won’t be taking up much time as a DH, only when it’s needed to keep him as fresh as possible, seeing as how we have to keep him healthy for the next 10 years in order for this contract to work out. The only player that really REALLY needs regular AB’s as a DH is Kendrys, and letting Abreu clog the hole is going to do more damage to this team than good, especially when Abreu thinks he should be playing every day.

A swap for Burnett would have cured this roster of one of its biggest ailments going into the season, its terrifying lack of pitching depth. The starting rotation just kind of falls off after Santana, and don’t get me wrong I really do believe in Jerome Williams. I feel that he can come back as a very strong 5th starter, though the sample size he’s given us is too small to count on. Williams pitched in 10 games, 6 as a starter, and in those 10 games he posted a 3.68 ERA in 44 IP. Those numbers are a little deceiving however, in the 4 games he pitched as a reliever Williams posted an ERA of 14.40 in 5 IP, while as a starter he kept his ERA down to an eye catching 2.31 while keeping a clean 2.0 K/BB in 39 IP, all while limiting his opponents to a .227/.297/.312 slash line. It’s clear that Williams appears more effective as a starter.  Then again we are running into the problem of a “sample size too small” to be able to make any serious, clear cut conclusions.

Garrett Richards, on the other hand, did not fare nearly as well as Williams did. Richards appeared as a starter in 3 games and a reliever in 7, posting an overall 5.79 ERA in 14 IP. His case is not as complicated as Williams, as he was bombed by the opposing offense both as a starter and a reliever, making him an extremely iffy option to throw in the rotation or bullpen due to lack of pitching depth. While Burnett would give some relief to rotation, it’s not really too certain whether or not he’ll be able to do a better job than Williams as a 5th starter (my money is on Williams), though if he does get his act together he could put up #3 starter type numbers. The Angels need to let Richards season a little more in AAA ball before his time in the majors truly come, if Williams gets knocked out by injury or bad starts the Angels only have Richards and Brad Mills to fall back on.

While Burnett would have given the Angels more breathing room with the lineup and some rotational depth to fall back on, his presence on the team wouldn’t have been all that rewarding for the Angels, unless you’re some kind of sick sadist who considers Kazmir the Sequel rewarding. I would have considered this trade a must, as Abreu has little value and another trade opportunity probably won’t come knocking. Lucky for the Angels Abreu ran his mouth off demanding a trade, opening up the gates to allow Dipoto to trade him for little to nothing, or even outright release him.

Even if Abreu performs at a decent level, his production still won’t match what the production that would come from the players taking over his spot would bring to the team. He gave a good couple of years, and if we didn’t have good old Reagins dragging us down with crappy contracts we wouldn’t have to worry about this mess in the first place.

It’s time to collect our thoughts and give Abreu a nice pat on the back and send him off to greener pastures, somewhere where he can play every day and pad his stats, we’d be doing him a great injustice if we made him ride the pine here when he could putting the finishing touches on his HoF career elsewhere.

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