Bucs team president Frank Coonelly went as far as to say the team is “turning the page” on the Burnett era to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, but the question remains as to whether the Pirates would spend the money earmarked for Burnett if he doesn’t come back.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe seems to have an idea on the matter, including a revealing tidbit in his weekly notes column. According to Cafardo, the Pirates wouldn’t necessarily pursue another pitcher if A.J. puts away his spikes for good:
Burnett has yet to decide whether he’s returning to Pittsburgh or retiring. The Pirates probably won’t go after a pitcher if he does retire. Right now, the Pirates are looking for a full-time first baseman and would use the Burnett resources toward that end.
Cafardo writes that league and team sources are used in the production of his notes columns, so we can reasonably presume that he’s not simply making an educated guess on this.
Perhaps the biggest “name” on the first-base market is Kendrys Morales, a 30-year-old who turned down a $14 million qualifying offer from the Seattle Mariners last fall and was thus declared a free agent. As Saber Bucs reminds us, there are doubt about Morales’ ability to play the field, as his severe knee injury in 2010 has limited him to mostly designated hitting since.
We’ve discussed the Mets’ Ike Davis and the Rangers’ Mitch Moreland ad nauseum throughout the offseason, as each has been linked to the Pirates in media reports. Adam Lind of Toronto was also brought up as a potential trade target during the Winter Meetings in December, but that fizzled almost immediately.
Not to dismiss Cafardo’s report, but there are few first base options remaining for the Pirates if they are determined to bring in someone from outside the organization. Whether via swap or free-agent signing, Pittsburgh will likely have a hard time finding a first baseman worth the money that Burnett would’ve commanded.
At any rate, if Burnett does retire, the Pirates will have additional resources to dole out as they see fit in 2014.