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NEW YORK - OCTOBER 19:  A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees looks on against the Texas Rangers in Game Four of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 19, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) A.J. Burnett.

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A.J. Burnett Is a Still a Yankee, for Now

Reports of trade talks between the Yankees and Pirates have been swirling for days now, but as of this very moment, A.J. Burnett remains a Yankee. Still, the Times says that talks of a deal that would send Burnett to Pittsburgh are "serious." The Post says the teams have "the outline of a trade in place." So yeah, Yankees fans might not have Burnett to kick around much longer.

At issue, as you could have probably guessed, is exactly how much of the $33 million still owed to Burnett that the Yankees would pick up. There's also the question of whom the Yankees would receive in return: The Yankees reportedly want Garrett Jones, but the Pirates don't want to include him in the deal. But the money seems to be the sticking point right now. It wouldn't be surprising for the Yankees to eat a good portion of his salary, since it's unclear exactly what his role would be with the team this season. It was one thing to pay $16.5 million for an inconsistent starter. But now that the Yankees have strengthened their rotation this off-season, Burnett would be competing with Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia for the fifth starter's job. If he didn't get it, he'd become a $16.5 million-a-year spare part.

A trade — even one in which they agreed to pay a good portion of his salary — could at best directly help them fill a need for next year, and at worst, free up some additional money to sign a bat to serve as a designated hitter. No matter your thoughts on Burnett, he's become expendable, and while eating a portion of his contract isn't ideal, it's pretty much all they can do at this point. Yankees pitchers and catchers must report to spring training by Sunday — but it's looking more and more like Burnett could be gone by then.

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Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images