Posted on Mon, Dec. 13, 2004
Five teams looking to get Burnett
BY KEVIN BAXTERmailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Marlins made little secret of the fact they came to the baseball winter meetings looking for pitching. But as of late Sunday night, it appeared they might have to give up an arm to get one.
One of the strongest rumors circulating around the Anaheim Marriott's marble-floored lobby had the Marlins trading right-hander A.J. Burnett to any of five teams, among them the New York Yankees, who would then ship Burnett to Arizona in a deal for Randy Johnson.
Also Sunday, the Marlins were rebuffed in their initial offer for Oakland right-hander Tim Hudson, although they reportedly moved closer to a deal with free-agent outfielder David Dellucci after upping their two-year offer, reportedly to more than $1 million a season.
''We've been active,'' general manager Larry Beinfest said. ``We're looking at everything. We're looking at some things we probably didn't anticipate looking at when we came here.''
One of those things was trading Burnett, a rumor that gained strength despite the fact many of the principles involved spent most of the day trying to knock it down.
''The interest with A.J. doesn't surprise me because he does have the capability to step up and be a front-line pitcher for any team,'' said agent Darek Braunecker, who spoke with his client by phone Sunday. ``But his intention and his expectation is to play the 2005 season for the Florida Marlins.''
A friend of the pitcher echoed those sentiments, though not everyone shares those expectations.In addition to the Yankees and Diamondbacks, the Cardinals, Tigers and Red Sox have also inquired about the 27-year-old, who is eligible for salary arbitration after making $2.5 million each of the past two seasons.
Yet it's possible Johnson, the Diamondbacks' Hall of Fame-bound pitcher, may wind up determining Burnett's immediate future.
The Yankees and Diamondbacks have spent months discussing a Johnson trade, only to have the Diamondbacks change their minds after spending $78 million on free agents Troy Glaus and Russ Ortiz at the winter meetings.
But a 2 ½-hour meeting between the Diamondbacks and Johnson's agent Saturday did not go well, so by Sunday morning Johnson was again being mentioned in trade talks -- this time with the Diamondbacks making it clear that the inclusion of Burnett would make any package attractive to them.
A three-way deal makes sense for everyone concerned. New York would get Johnson, whom it covets, while reuniting right-hander Javier Vazquez with Beinfest, who had the pitcher in Montreal; the Diamondbacks would get rid of Johnson's $16 million salary while adding Burnett, whom they want. And the Marlins would get rid of a young pitcher who is certain to follow Carl Pavano into free agency next winter while getting back a 28-year-old who is signed through 2007.
The deal could be made even more attractive to Florida if the club can pair Burnett with right fielder Juan Encarnacion, allowing them to clear Encarnacion's $4 million contract from the books while creating a spot in the lineup for Dellucci. The left-handed slugger is asking for some guarantee of playing time before he signs.
A number of salary issues would have to be worked out -- Vazquez is owed $34.5 million over the next three seasons, a commitment the Marlins won't assume but one Arizona might be willing to help with since they'll save millions by moving Johnson.
The trade remains a long shot -- especially if the Yankees continue to pursue free agent Pedro Martinez, as they were reportedly doing Sunday night.
As for Hudson, Beinfest, assistant GM Michael Hill, and two other members of the Marlins' front office met with the Athletics in GM Billy Beane's suite after talks between the A's and Los Angeles Dodgers stalled. But according to an Oakland source who took part, Beane found the Florida offer unappealing.
Beinfest, who will leave Anaheim shortly after this morning's Rule V draft, said he had face-to-face meetings with five clubs in addition to Oakland but doesn't expect to complete any deals before returning to Florida.
Staff writer Clark Spencer contributed to this story