BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' long-running pursuit of A.J. Burnett ended and the veteran right-hander's Pirates career began on Sunday night, with the formal announcement of the deal acquiring him from the New York Yankees. Hours after Burnett passed his obligatory physical at Pirate City, Commissioner Bud Selig gave his necessary consent, since the transaction includes $20 million by the Yankees to help cover the $33 million for two years remaining on the 35-year-old's contract. Burnett is expected to occupy his locker in the Bucs clubhouse on Monday morning, and to address the media prior to taking the field for his first workout in his new colors.
The immediate shift for Burnett is minor: The 48 miles that separate the Spring Training camps of the Pirates and the Yankees. The major move will be the one he is making from the American League East to the National League Central, generally seen as one that will positively affect his career.
Unofficially, the deal finally came together on Friday, with the Pirates giving in enough to make it happen but not enough to feel uncomfortable about it.General manager Neal Huntington acquired Burnett and the salary relief in exchange for outfielder Exicardo Cayones and right-handed reliever Diego Moreno. The Pirates thus absorbed $13 million of what remains of the five-year, $82.5 million contract Burnett had signed as a free agent after the 2008 season. Pittsburgh's annual commitment is considerably below the $10 million, one-year offers the Bucs had made to a pair of free agents, Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt. For raising their share of Burnett's contract from their starting point of $10 million, the Pirates were able to make the deal for the two lower-level prospects, who between them have a total of 14 games experience above Class A. Moreno and Cayones, both Venezuelans, were still in the lower Minors in 2011 after several years in the Pirates organization. Moreno, signed as a 19-year-old in 2006, spent most of the 2011 season with Class A Bradenton before seven games with Double-A Altoona. A reliever with a power arm, the six-foot, 221-pound righty is coming off an impressive stint in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he had a 3.05 ERA in 17 appearances. Cayones was signed as a 16-year-old in 2008, and last season batted .210 between the short-season State College Spikes (New York-Penn League) and the Gulf Coast (Rookie League) Pirates. Burnett thus is finally ready to begin trying to fit into the maturing Pirates rotation. Two years after having no starters in their 30s, the Pirates will have three: Kevin Correia, 31; Erik Bedard, 32; and Burnett. The Bucs already have three other incumbent starters -- Charlie Morton, who is returning from October hip surgery but fully expects to take the ball on Opening Day; James McDonald; and Jeff Karstens. Burnett immediately takes over as staff elder, and the younger members of the rotation have already talked about being eager to pick his brain on several topics, to ask questions about -- and observe -- his physical and mental preparations, for the season and start-to-start. Finding himself in an overcrowded rotation will be an ironic quandary for Burnett. He landed on the trade market on Jan. 13, after the Yankees dealt for Michael Pineda and signed Hiroki Kuroda on the same day. With CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and Burnett, those deals left the Yankees with seven potential starters.