Thirty-six pitchers and catchers reported to Bradenton, Fla., on Thursday morning as Pittsburgh Pirates spring training officially got going.
But unlike the past two springs, A.J. Burnett won’t be walking through that door, as the free-agent pitcher signed a one-year contract with the Phillies on Wednesday.
Free-wheeling Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., reportedly gave the 37-year-old Burnett $16 million to move across Pennsylvania, the second-highest annual salary handed out to a pitcher this winter. Burnett has assuredly been quite good the past two years in Pittsburgh, but he wasn’t expected to get that big of a payout.
Last month, it was leaked that the Pirates’ initial offer to Burnett was $8.5 million, which looks rather feeble when compared to what the Phillies handed over this week. However, CBS Sports MLB reporter Jon Heyman shed more light on the Bucs’ efforts to retain the fiery right-hander:
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 13, 2014
As Heyman indicates, $12 million is still a decent distance away from what Philadelphia offered, but it does call into question how serious Burnett was about his desire to return to Pittsburgh for a third season. It was his right to explore the market, and he was rewarded while not having to stray too far from his Maryland home.
Money aside, Philadelphia seems like a bit of a curious choice for Burnett, who has to be seeking one more chance at a playoff run before retirement. Most observers, myself included, would say the Pirates have a better opportunity to make the postseason than the Phillies.
Still, Pittsburgh had an opportunity to retain Burnett with a qualifying offer last fall, but declined to do so. Under that arrangement, Burnett would’ve made $14.1 million in 2014.
Apparently $12 million was as far as the Pirates were willing to go to keep Burnett. Because of that self-imposed restriction, A.J. is headed east.