Bombers’ Bites: Did Yankees Avoid Another AJ?


Yesterday, the San Diego Padres made the signing of James Shields official. The 33-year old starting pitcher received a four-year deal worth $75 million. According to CBS Sports and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, if Shields picks up the fifth-year option put in his deal, he will make $89 million over the course of the contract.

Last week, I wrote in the Bombers Bites that the New York Yankees should have signed Shields if it was for that amount of money. However, when I saw the exact details of this deal, the first pitcher I thought about was A.J. Burnett.

In December of 2008, the New York Yankees signed Burnett to a five-year deal worth $85 million. Burnett was one of the pieces along with CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira that helped bring the Bronx Bombers the World Championship in 2009. Even with that Championship, Burnett brought a lot of headache to Yankees’ fans that were expecting a lot more from that contract.

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As I was watching the 2014 postseason, I wanted to examine James Shields’ record in big games. In 11 postseason games, Shields is 3-6 with a 5.46 ERA. While he did have a good performance in Kansas City’s ALDS clinching win over the Angels, the other two big wins for Shields’ playoff career came in 2008 with the Rays. This includes Tampa’s only World Series win vs. the Phillies in Game 2, a series the team lost in five games.

As for Burnett’s postseason record, it is less than ideal to say the least. In eight postseason games, he is 2-3 with a 6.36 ERA. Both of Burnett’s wins did come with the Yankees, considering his one postseason start with Pittsburgh was awful. In Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS vs. St. Louis, he gave up seven runs over two innings of work. So, in Burnett’s Yankees’ career, his postseason ERA was about 5.08.

Plus, the other positive about Burnett is that he had a over.500 record against every team in the AL East. Meanwhile, Shields does not have an over .500 record against Boston and New York in his career.

In the end, this isn’t the reason why the Yankees didn’t sign Shields. I think New York looked at the market for next season and realized they can spend nearly $20 million per year on a pitcher next off-season and get more bang for their buck.

However, as Shields is now going to the National League, maybe his big game performance will improve on the West Coast. For now, it looks like New York made the right decision in passing up this group of free agent pitchers, including Shields.

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