The Yankees have "quietly" worked to deal A.J. Burnett this offseason, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman, in an attempt to free up some money to sign a veteran piece or two.
Now here's where it gets tricky: MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes listed the White Sox as a team that could look to acquire the 35-year-old starter. His reasoning is that adding Burnett would allow the Sox to deal Gavin Floyd without "decimating" the starting rotation. And with the Yankees kicking in about 20-25 million of Burnett's remaining 33 million salary, he'd come at a cheap enough price that the Sox could afford him.
But there's really no reason for the Sox to want to acquire Burnett unless the Yankees are willing to take on a bad contract -- for instance, that of Alex Rios. Money-wise, paying Burnett 10 million through 2013 instead of shelling out 16.5 million to Floyd would save some cash. If the Sox are trading Floyd, though, they could save upwards of 15 million by inserting Dylan Axelrod or Zach Stewart into the 2012 rotation, and then hopefully Nestor Molina in 2013.
Production-wise, some combination of Axelrod, Stewart and Molina wouldn't be worse than Burnett. In the last two seasons, Burnett has been worth 2.9 WAR (per FanGraphs) with an ERA north of five. At 35, he's an extremely unlikely candidate for a rebound season. About 1-1.5 WAR is probably all that should be expected out of him at this point.
Axelrod and Stewart may not be ideal candidates for a rotation spot in 2012, but they surely could combine to equal the below-average value Burnett should provide at a fraction of the price. It's a very small sample size, but in 69 13 innings last season, the pair combined for 0.8 WAR. It doesn't take much to reach 1.5 WAR as a starting pitcher.
And while it probably wouldn't take much to acquire Burnett, it would be a completely unnecessary move by the White Sox.