Oct 3, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the first inning in game one of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates Are To Blame If A.J. Burnett Signs Elsewhere


The saga between the Pittsburgh Pirates and starting pitcher A.J. Burnett has gotten to the point where it has gotten as predictable as anything you would see in the WWE.

The latest came on Tuesday when it came out that Burnett would return to baseball in 2014 and would be open to pitching for another team other than the Pirates.

Like we didn’t see that coming.

Aug 20, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) reacts after allowing the first hit of the game during the third inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

There is still a chance that the Pirates can re-sign Burnett, as Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told the Post-Gazette‘s Jenn Menendez that their “process continues with A.J.”

However I wouldn’t put much stock in those words as in all likelihood Burnett will be wearing another uniform next season.

That will be a sad sight to see as Burnett has meant so much to the Pirates recent turnaround.

When and if that happens, Burnett will become the villain among many Pirates fans. After all, he did say after the 2013 season ended that he would either retire or come back to the Pirates.

However when Burnett inks a deal with either the Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles or any other team, don’t blame A.J. Blame the Pirates.

The Bucs had every opportunity to bring Burnett back. They could have made him a $14.1 million qualifying offer at the end of the season.

While I personally wouldn’t have paid Burnett that much, even that number comes in under market value for a guy like Burnett, who was coming off a very good 2013 season.

Our Matt Gajtka broke it down:

Burnett has been quite good since being traded from the Yankees to the Pirates, especially in 2013 as he contributed a 3.30 ERA and a career-best xFIP (fielding-independent pitching) of 2.92. He struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings and induced 56.5 percent of the hitters he faced to hit a ground ball, meshing with the Pirates’ increased focus on defensive shifting.

Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs had Burnett adding anywhere from three to four wins above replacement (WAR) in 2013, which would equate to around a $20 million salary based on what free agents have been paid this offseason. While the Yankees picked up most of Burnett’s contract after the deal, the Pirates’ asking him to take less than 50 percent than what he’d likely get elsewhere may be too much.

Throw in the fact that Burnett was fifth in the National League in strikeouts (209) last season and the $14.1 million almost looks like a bargain.

However, despite increased revenue from ticket sales, increased ticket prices this season and a television deal that Pirates president Frank Coonelly states is in the top half of the league, Huntington has been on record that the organization can’t pay Burnett $14 million or pay any player market value. Even though the $14 million appears to be below market value, it is something that the Pirates weren’t willing to do.

That’s fine, but it likely didn’t have to be $14 million.

Had the Pirates been willing to counter in the $10-12 million range for one season, this wouldn’t likely be a story right now as Burnett would likely be signed and ready to go for spring training.

Instead the Pirates leaked out the fact that they offered Burnett $8.5 million for a one-year contract.

That not only is a lowball offer for a guy that after a 202.1 inning, 3.51 ERA effort in 2012, threw 191 innings of 3.30 ball last year, it is less than 50 percent of what Burnett could probably get testing the waters in free agency.

The fact that was made public likely upset Burnett and could be the final straw that ended Burnett’s Pirates career.

Yes, Burnett strung the Pirates along, but a lot of that likely has to do with the fact that the Bucs never showed him that they were serious about bringing him back.

It’s tough to tell Bob Nutting to spend $10-14 million on one player, but for one year, that is something the organization certainly should be able to swallow by this point.

While I have respected the Pirates not wasting money this offseason in order not to block potential future stars like Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon with marginal players, the Burnett situation is different and it certainly doesn’t send a positive message to the fan base that came out in bunches last season. That coupled with the rest of the offseason to date has to have Pirates fans questioning ownership’s real commitment to winning.

That alone is a shame as coming off a successful 2013 campaign, things really didn’t have to come to this.

But at the end of the day Burnett will be in another uniform next season. The fact that the Pirates shelled out $5 million for a guy like Edinson Volquez, who hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2008, all but ended Burnett’s chances of returning as the Bucs won’t be carrying six starters.

But when you see Burnett succeeding with another club next season, just remember that the Bucs had every opportunity to keep him in Pittsburgh.

Don’t blame Burnett for leaving.

Blame the Pirates.


Tags: A.J. Burnett Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Don Karwowski

    I think the the major reason A.J. may not be back, is a matter of trust. He was scheduled to start game 5 of the playoff series vs. St. Louis at the end of last season, but Hurdle handed the ball to Cole because AJ was coming off a poor performance the start before. I don’t think that sat well with A.J.

    • tom from st pete florida

      NO, he is over that. But paying him anything over 12 for 1 season , is beyond ludicrous, market value or not.

      I have no idea why the Pirates, if they did , would release that offer of 8.5 million to the press.

      Huntington should be able to come up with some crafty way, to load a contract with reasonable incentives, and that way, Burnett can possibly take home that 14.1 he seems to be stuck on.

      One way or another , he can and will have to be replaced.

      I just cannot forget ALL those games he pitched at Busch in 2013.

      The regular season one was brutal enough, but the 1 in the NL playoffs, blows that one out of the water.

      Just remember Taillon is on his way.

      Those $$$$’s targeted for Burnett can sign quite a few players, and extend a few others , like Marte and Alvarez.

      • scott stevens

        Wishfully Dreaming!

        • tom from st pete florida

          what am i dreaming about? I am telling it like it is, and how it should be.

          • scott stevens

            Nutting keeps the money he doesn’t spend on AJ and Alvarez is all must gone by 2015. and that’s how it will be

          • tom from st pete florida

            u are clueless

          • Don Karwowski

            I was born in the ‘Burgh when dinosaurs roamed the earth and have loved and followed all the teams since. So, I am a little gun shy when it comes to an owner saying he wants a good team. Show me before I believe. Walker could be extended, but according to the player, nothing happening on that front. Is it because Hansen is but a couple years away from show, or is it a matter of not wanting to spend. I know Tallion is coming, so is Glasnow, but entering the season hoping that Rodriguez comes back healthy, Liriano doesn’t take a step back like he has his whole career and depending on Volquez to suddenly stop wasting talent, seems like a lot to wish for. Don’t forget, the Pirates are in arguably the toughest division in baseball. St.Louis is improved, Cincy is always in it and then in a year or two the Cubs have all that minor league talent coming….. what I’m saying is, standing still is not going to cut it.

          • Rick Eger

            I hope you’re wrong but it wouldn’t surprise me…

    • Rick Eger

      Maybe A.J was upset at being passed over in the last play off game, but Hurdle made the right decision. The Cardinals slapped A.J. around pretty good in his 1st. start and Cole was on a roll.

      • Rick Eger

        Having said that I really hate to see A.J. go. He was the Buc’s 1st. true stopper since Doug Drabek in the early 90′s.

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  • scott stevens

    Get use to it Pirate fans, this owner has no intention of paying for a competitive team that will compete every year. We are the laughing stock of all the professional teams. Nutting just doesn’t care if we win or lose, his goal is money, not championships. Alveraz, Cutch and Liriano to name a few will all walk, Nutting will cry poverty, the bloggers will defend this cheap stake likes it’s their money and claim we can replace these pieces that leave the Burgh. I have yet to hear on apologist ask where the guaranteed 25-30 mil each MLB team gets annually for the next 10 years.

    • Matt Gajtka

      If I may point out one logical flaw in your argument, if a writer asks where the TV money went, can they still be an “apologist?”

      • scott stevens

        Sure why not, he would be trying to explore why that 25 mil TV money they were handed is not being used on the major league team. At least we know what the other clubs are doing with it, including small market teams, and that’s improving their MLB team.
        You can do a probing look at what’s going on and have your own personnel opinion also. If Nutting wants to run the Pirates as a business first, unlike most other clubs, then the fans should know that, then they have the option of not supporting that business. Be honest with the fans, are they more concerned about being greedy, they were profitable before this past year and with an extra 25 mil or do they really care about winning a Championship. I think most fans would like that answer

        • JBubs

          Scott, calm down, man! After 20 seasons of being a baseball joke, the Pirates last year were ONE GAME from making the NLCS. If you have been watching closely the past few years you will have noticed the pattern established by Nutting and Company, a pattern absolutely necessary for a small-market club to be successful: Sell players at their peak value in order to sign young potential stars at bargain prices until a solid core of young studs could fill the stables. Mission accomplished, despite the chronic belly-aching of some Burghers throughout this process, a process that is still on-going. If Nutting doesn’t care about winning (and I am totally impressed that you can read minds) he sure has an odd way of showing it. BTW professional baseball IS a business, and as I see it, A.J. Burnett is but one effective pitcher, that is all. The Pirates can win with or without him because the young studs behind are about ready to make some noise. Remember Cole? Lastly, you also have absolutely no evidence to conclude that Nutting is greedy, so you are being unkind. Now go drink some beer and get ready for another fun season.

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