33-year-old RHP Jared Burton has agreed to a minor-league deal with the New York Yankees for the upcoming 2015 season, in which he hopes to find a middle relief role in an already crowded bullpen. The deal itself includes an invite to Spring Training for the former eighth round pick. He is one of several pitchers the Yankees have signed lately that have some solid upside if they can get back to their former selves on the mound.
Burton’s 2014 was of the roughest years of his career, as he would post an ugly 4.36 ERA in 64 innings for the Minnesota Twins. His velocity had seemed to be lower compared to it’s usual marking for his career which could explain why his ERA jumped so high over just two year. The decrease in velocity showed through Burton’s strikeout rate as he went from averaging over 8 K’s per nine in both 2012 and 2013 to only 6.5 in 2014. When a pitcher’s stuff begins to diminish as they age, there’s usually an adjustment period where they learn to throw with whatever they have left. Who knows, maybe if Burton figures out how to be effective during the spring without the velocity he once had, he could possibly end up being one of the steals of the entire off-season for the Bronx Bombers.
Dating back to 2012, Burton was one of the best set-up men in the entire league for the Twins, compiling a strong 2.18 ERA over 62 innings. Not to mention, thanks to his strong control and ability to not give up hits that year, he was able to put together a cool 0.919 WHIP, by far the lowest mark of his 8 seasons spent in the majors. After the brilliant season he earned a two-year, 5.5 million dollar deal that included a team option worth 3.6 million for 2015 from the Twins. But after failing to live up to expectations during most of 2013 and all of 2014, the Twins declined the option this off-season, making him a free agent.
As we near Spring Training, many more of these signings are likely to take place across the league as teams hope to find a diamond in the rough that can help them come Opening Day. Usually many of these minor-league deals end up not working very well or even lasting all that long, but there’s always stories each year of guys who were in that same position but ended up having a considerable impact on a team by the end of the year. No matter what happens with Burton this spring, it won’t hurt the Yankees, since it is just a minor-league contract, but they’re going to need a very strong bullpen for 2015 as they head into the season with a starting rotation that seems to have a lot of question marks surrounding it.