One thing that could turn the Pittsburgh Pirates offseason into a major success would be the news that starting pitcher A.J. Burnett will be coming back for another season.
Unfortunately no one still knows whether or not that will happen, not even Burnett.
Burnett is reportedly still undecided on his future plans, but apparently has been working out as if he intends to pitch. But he hasn’t given the Pirates a clue on what his plans are.
I don’t think that affected the Bucs offseason too much, but eventually there has to be a drop-dead date by when the Pirates need an answer.
Burnett can’t continue to string the Pirates along.
Some of the signs are a bit disturbing though, especially his lack of communication.
Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage reached out to Burnett in an effort to learn of his plans, but hasn’t heard back. Two weeks ago Searage said he was assuming that Burnett will retire. I can’t imagine him thinking any other way with no effort from Burnett to reach out.
General manager Neal Huntington reportedly has been speaking to Burnett’s agent, referring to the situation as “still working through the process.” That’s another way of Huntington saying that “we still don’t have a clue.”
Burnett indicated early in the offseason that he’ll either retire or re-sign with the Pirates, however the longer he strings the Bucs along, the tougher it becomes for them.
First of all the team will likely have to save probably $10 million or more in payroll for Burnett, meaning that the Pirates can’t spend money to improve other areas even if they wanted to.
Then, if he does return they may have to make a move with one of their current starters. It would be nice to have some extra time for Huntington to do that.
The Pirates would still gladly take Burnett back as he was still pretty good last season, but he is still putting the team in a tough spot.
We have less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Eventually the Pirates are going to have to come up with a date for Burnett to make a decision or simply decide to move on.
They have played the waiting game long enough.