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Yanks, Tribe Talking Burnett, Hafner Swap? And Why?

Feb 14, 2012 -- 3:28pm

By: T.J. Zuppe

It is certainly starting to be as predictable as death and taxes. Anytime a club is shopping a player – with the possible willingness to eat a portion of his salary – the Cleveland Indians will come a calling.

Not that they should not. In fact, those are the precise type of unique opportunities they should kick the tires on.

After all, recently it has worked in their favor, acquiring Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs last year and Derek Lowe from the Braves early this offseason. Both landed with the framework in place for both Chicago and Atlanta to eat a large part of their salaries.

So naturally, with the Yankees dangling pitcher A.J. Burnett on the trade market and the prospect of New York chipping in some cash to get it done, general manager Chris Antonetti has checked in.

That is according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Heyman tweeted, “Yankees / Indians talk revolve around AJ and Travis Hafner. Cleveland unsure it would do that swap. Yanks also don't mind the (free agent) DH options.”

A portion of the Tribe fan base may have leapt for joy over the notion of unloading the remaining chunk of Hafner’s contract.

More than likely, that is before they looked at the gigantic chunk owed to Burnett.

In checking a quick tale of the tape, the 34-year old Hafner is due $13 million in 2012, with a $2.75 million buyout for 2013. Burnett currently sits on an albatross of his own, on the books for $33 million over the next two seasons.

That is not to mention his lack of success over the previous two campaigns, combining for a record of 21-26, with a bloated earned run average of 5.20. That is somewhat understandable considering the multitude of challenges a Yanks pitcher faces.

Wait a minute. Sure, pitching at Yankee Stadium is like having your thumb on the trigger of a rocket launcher, but throwing for New York? Holding your opponent to roughly four runs per outing will win you a boat load of games. Burnett could not get that done.

So let’s add this up, shall we?

Buyout included, the salary scale tips entirely towards Burnett – with a difference of nearly $18 million over the next two seasons.

He is 35-years old, coming off of his two worst seasons as a professional.

That is compared to Hafner at age 34, who has lost some pop but still has the ability to hit for a higher average and strike a sliver of fear into opposing pitchers. Of course, that is when he can stay on the field - a road block he continues to stumble over.

Even if the Yanks agree to pay a large piece of Burnett’s salary, Cleveland would be acquiring the worse of the two players. If an even swap were possible, it still leaves a giant question mark, while creating another.

Why should they unload Hafner’s deal, just to acquire one in return for a below average hurler who would remain on the Tribe’s roster for two years – not the possible one under Hafner? The team has already waited so long, why abandon that now with the specter of being out from under it so close?

The only way this remotely become appetizing is if New York agreed to send the Indians some form of offense, in addition to paying the majority of Burnett’s deal over the next two years. Even that avenue leaves a bad taste.

That said; let us realize exactly what these talks are – rumors, rumblings, and conversations.

There are quite a few moves looked at under the microscope every off-season. Nearly every single one gets put back on the shelf to collect dust.

Let us hope this never becomes more than what it is for us now – great February fodder.

Follow TJ on Twitter @TJZuppe

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