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A.J. Burnett, Roy Oswalt and the DH pool

Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett of the New York

Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett of the New York Yankees walks off the field after being pulled during the 6th inning of a game against the Kansas City Royals. (Aug. 15, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Greetings. I hope everyone has been well.

Thanks to the Giants (and congratulations, particularly to Mario Manningham) for occupying so much of the yakosphere (trademark Neil Best), largely taking baseball off the hook.

This is usually the point where I play catch up, but really, we didn't miss much. Very good job by Washington signing Edwin Jackson for just one year; that Nationals starting rotation looks pretty darn good now. 

I'll address the Brian Cashman situation in more detail when he speaks publicly about it in some form, which should be soon. But for now, you likely already know that he appears in no danger of losing his job and in fact is working on significant roster changes.

So let's move past the past and see what's left on the Hot Stove front before all camps open; the Mariners already are up and at 'em.

1. A.J. Burnett. Our Yankees writer Erik Boland already is in Tampa, and in today's Newsday, he writes about the Yankees' starting rotation.

I agree with Boland's analysis: It makes all the sense in the world for the Yankees to jettison Burnett before pitchers and catchers arrive. And if the Pirates are willing to take on $10 million or so of the $33 million remaining? Sold! Take a couple of marginal prospects and set sail.

The Yankees appear to have the starting pitching depth to sustain the loss of Burnett; as Boland writes, there would still be six guys for five spots, and like Boland, I've heard that Phil Hughes is in far better shape than he was a year ago at this time. 

We've seen first-hand the last two seasons that Burnett a) just isn't very good and b) is also high-maintenance, yet there is potential for upside. He won his lone postseason start last year and could have won his lone postseason start in 2010, had Joe Girardi lifted him sooner, and he has some intriguing peripheral numbers like his strikeouts per nine innings (8.2 last year) and FIP and xFIP (better than his ERA each of the last two season).

Having written that, it makes sense for the Yankees to ship Burnett to the National League and, even better, to a team quite unlikely to wind up as, say, a World Series opponent. Given that payroll relief is the ultimate goal of this deal, the Yankees might as well send Burnett somewhere he's less likely to haunt them.

2. The DHs. This seems to get more pronounced each season. With the notable exception of baseball's best DH David Ortiz, guys whose primary tool is hitting, most of whom are on the wrong side of 35, have to wait longer into the winter and accept fewer dollars to stay in baseball. 

Assuming the Yankees can complete the Burnett trade with Pittsburgh, they'll pick up a few bucks to spend on a lefty-hitting DH. Since the Yankees traded Jesus Montero, I've felt that Raul Ibanez would likely be the best fit, because he'd be less concerned about dollars and at-bats than Johnny Damon. We could very well find out this week.

Also still hanging around: Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui, Magglio Ordonez and Manny Ramirez. It's rough out there for these guys.

3. Roy Oswalt. Once he signs somewhere, then I'll do my annual "Offseason Winners and Losers" feature, as Oswalt is the lone remaining Type A free agent. To clarify, he won't cost a team draft picks, as the Phillies didn't offer him arbitration.

Oswalt's free agency has to be one of the strangest in recent memory. Starting pitchers have a great deal of leeway where to sign, right? Most teams need starting pitching, because you need five starting pitchers, as opposed to, say, just one infielder at each position or one centerfielder.

So what has Oswalt done? He has targeted a pair of teams - St. Louis and Texas - that possessed two of the best and deepest starting rotations in the industry. While expressing very litlte interest in competitive clubs like Boston and Detroit that wanted him.

Word is that Oswalt's holding out hope for the Cardinals or Rangers to make a trade and create room for him. But if you're St. Louis or Texas, how much effort would you expend - and how imbalanced of a trade would you make - just to get Oswalt, who turns 35 on August 29 and is coming off a 2011 season in which he threw just 139 innings?

I think Oswalt can still be very good, and by all means, the whole point of being a free agent is having the power to choose your destination. Yet there's something to be said for being too selective in this process, and Oswalt seems to have selected himself into a corner.

--OK, so this week, we'll monitor the Yankees' moves and get ready for spring training. I'm scheduled to leave for Florida on Friday night and will begin writing on Saturday.

--Giveaway contests this week? Yes, giveaway contests this week. Let's plan to do them today through Thursday. So stick around.


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