As we get closer and closer to the start of spring training, the question of whether the Pittsburgh Pirates will have A.J. Burnett on the Opening Day roster continues to fade into the background.
Burnett, who supposedly told the Pirates in October that he needed a couple of weeks to decide on retirement, has still not made a call one way or another.
As I wrote Sunday, Tom Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently reported that the Pirates would use any money not spent on Burnett to upgrade the first base position. (Our Matt Shetler looked into one of the free-agent options earlier today.)
Well, now we have more information on the whole situation, as the Beaver County Times’ John Perrotto reports that the Pirates have offered Burnett $8.5 million to return for another year in the starting rotation.
On the surface, getting the 37-year-old right-handed at $8.5 million would be a tremendous bargain. Burnett was worth about two wins above replacement (WAR) in 2013, putting his market value close to double the Pirates’ offer. Even when factoring in age-related decline, Burnett would presumably command more than $10 million easily if he were to shop around.
The issue for Burnett is that he hasn’t done that, at least not publicly. He’s said multiple times that his decision this offseason comes down to a return to Pittsburgh or retirement. While Baltimore has been bandied about as another option for Burnett, leverage isn’t on his side.
Also, the Pirates could argue – and I’m sure they have – that the Yankees picked up the majority of Burnett’s salary following his arrival via trade in February 2012. $8.5 million wouldn’t be far from what Pittsburgh has paid for Burnett over the past two seasons.
That fact could be simply a negotiating tactic, as is team president Frank Coonelly’s statement last week that the Pirates were operating as if Burnett isn’t coming back. No matter what, the stalemate between A.J. and the Bucs doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.