The Battle for Burnett: To Vest or Guarantee
If CC Sabathia was starter No. 1 in the free agent market, Toronto power pitcher A.J. Burnett and Dodgers sinkerballer Derek Lowe are now Nos. 1 and 1A with Sabathia finally signed, sealed and all but delivered to New York. The market for Lowe may still be evolving, but the battle for Burnett is entering it's final stages.
By all accounts the two teams making a big push for Burnett are Atlanta and the Yankees. Which one he chooses will almost certainly come down to who gives Burnett a fifth-year on his contract, a stipulation his agent has pushed for since day one.
Well, that's now getting a bit trickier, with both the Braves and Yankees reportedly offering some type of a fifth year option. According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Braves offered Burnett a four-year deal with a fifth year in the form of an easily-attainable vesting option. That deal was scheduled to run around $80 million. The Yankees reportedly countered with a five-year deal worth $85 million. That's higher than the alleged first five-year offer he got from the Yankees, which was closer to the Braves number but guaranteed the fifth year.
Will $5 million get Burnett to the Bronx? It might, but the Braves are said to be preparing a final push to get their man. Atlanta GM Frank Wren said before the offseason that he wanted to add two top starting pitchers. He's added one via trade (Javier Vazquez) and desperately wants Burnett to be the other.
That leads to the following intriguing possibility: If the Braves match New York's offer, will Burnett go to Atlanta so he can put up better numbers in the NL and live in a cheaper city? It's definitely possible, and it probably should be among his considerations when deciding where he's going to pitch. But another factor Burnett was focused on was location, with hopes of playing somewhere closer to his rural Maryland home than Toronto (and Florida, before that). New York is definitely closer than Atlanta, but neither is close enough for him to make the drive.
All of this could come to a head by this evening or tomorrow morning, so we'll probably know Burnett's next employer soon. In the meantime, what do people think of his decision? And, just as important, which would you pick if you had the Braves and Yankees lined up?
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