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Pirates president wants A.J. Burnett back if he doesn’t retire

Oct 23, 2013, 10:47 AM EDT

A.J. Burnett AP

A.J. Burnett has said he’s weighing whether to re-sign with the Pirates or retire at age 36 and Pirates president Frank Coonelly left no doubt that he’d like Burnett to re-sign for 2014, telling Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

We’d like to have A.J. back. Everybody has made that clear; we’ve made it clear to A.J. He’s got a decision to make, first and foremost, whether it’s time for him to spend more time with his family or whether he thinks he can go another year. If he decides that he wants to come back, we definitely want A.J. back.

Burnett pondering retirement could actually work in the Pirates’ favor in that he presumably won’t be looking for a multi-year contract. They also have the option of making him a qualifying offer, in which case Burnett could accept and get a one-year deal for around $14 million or the Pirates would get draft pick compensation if he were to sign elsewhere.

Burnett struggled in his playoff start, but threw 393 innings with a 3.41 ERA in two years with the Pirates, including 191 innings with a 3.30 ERA this season to finish a five-year, $82.5 million contract handed out by the Yankees once upon a time.

  1. stex52 - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Boy, that picture used up top makes him look about 60. Maybe he should retire.

  2. apkyletexas - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    As a Pirates fan, I love the attitude and some of the big games he’s won, but can’t see how he’s going to be worth $14 million for one year. The dude had a legit losing record this year, giving up winning rallies in middle innings repeatedly. He wears out after 5-6 innings – you can see him lose it.

    The Bucs are already on the hook for Wandy Rodriguez for about $13 million for the year, and can’t even be sure he’ll be healthy enough to pitch at all. They can get Burnett’s 9 or 10 wins from guys like Brandon Crumpton, Phil Irwin, Kyle McPherson and Jeanmar Gomez, and they need to start making room for Stolmy Pimentel and Jameson Taillon to eventually move into the starting lineup from the minors.

    And if Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke continue to hold down their starter jobs, there may not be room for all the arms. If the Pirates had no arms and did not have a #1 starter in Liriano or Cole, then it might make sense to consider signing Burnett at that price. But with their crowded starting pitching situation, I’m not seeing it.

    • chodgen - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:45 PM

      I have to disagree with you on several points apkyletexas. First and foremost, A.J’s losing record was hardly his fault. For the second straight season, the offense failed to produce and he was hung with a loss or nodecision for games he was deserving of a win.

      Next, pitchers in this day and age who rank among the league leaders in strikeouts and K/9 while providing veteran leadership and sub 4.00 era, usually do get about 14million. If you’d like, I can give you the names of several pitchers who are making around or more than that amount who arguably provide less value than that of Burnett.

      Being on the hook for Rodriguez contract should also not factor into the decision,at all.The Astros are still responsible for a portion of that option so the Pirates will not be paying the full 14 million.

      Now the part I disagree with most, is getting “Burnett’s 9 or 10 wins” from pitchers already in the organization. Cumpton probably has the most potential and projects as no more than a 4-5 starter. While I do like Irwin, much more than McPherson anyhow, both of them struggled with injuries and inactivity for much of the season, similar to Rodriguez who you suggested cannot be counted on to be healthy. Gomez did very well in the early part of the season but management clearly saw something that caused them to go in a different direction than Gomez as a starter after Locke imploded. I also don’t see Gomez as anything more then a quality long relief/spot starter type. And Locke cannot be trusted and I doubt that he will be. His stuff is average at best and he had great luck in the first half of the season. The key to Locke is fastball command and if he cannot become more consistent with it he will flame out.

      And lastly, a rotation spot does not need to be opened up for Pimentel or Taillon. You don’t “open up” rotation spots for rookies after a 94 win season, even if you are the Pirates. Pimentel has been plagued by control issues his entire career and his roster status is in doubt unless he can show he’s finally reached his potential in spring training and has one of those types of camps that forces their hand. And Taillon will spend the first half of the season in AAA where he was very uninspiring at the end of this season. And once he does finally reach, don’t expect him to make the kind of immediate impact that Cole made. In fact, I expect some pretty big growing pains with Taillon. Which is something they cannot afford to have if Burnett is replaced with Cumpton, Gomez etc.

      So in recap, yes. Sometimes you do have to spend 14 million on a pitcher of Burnetts quality to win those 9 or 10 games. You have to look at how many of those games he loses or doesn’t get a decision where he kept them in it and it led to a win. The alternative? Get those 9 or 10 from the guys you mentioned while giving up the 15-20 losses in games that they don’t give us a chance in. Not something you want to do after a playoff season.

      • apkyletexas - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:21 PM

        Crumpton and Gomez have done nothing to indicate they would go a combined 9-15 or 9-20 as you’ve stated. The Pirates were 3-3 in games started by Crumpton, and 8-0 in games started by Gomez.

        Burnett’s losses were a mixed bag – he lost one 1-0 game and a pair of 2-1 games. However, he also gave up 6 runs over two middle innings in a big loss to the Braves, 4 runs in the first inning in a loss to the Nats. In a 7-game stretch in August & September, he gave up 5 runs in 6 innings, 5 runs in 5 innings, 4 runs in 7 1/3, 5 runs in 3 innings, and 5 runs in 6 1/3. Not good – and he couldn’t blame the offense in any of those games.

  3. chodgen - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    And you’d be ok with giving a rotation spot to a guy like Cumpton* who had a handful of spot starts and pitched very well in them. Jeff Locke was an All-Star in the first half, do you want to trust him with a guaranteed rotation spot? I sure as hell don’t. Enlighten yourself and go look at Gomez’s splits in the second half and his 2012 season withe Indians. We aren’t talking about the next Cy Young canidate. His role is a spot starter who will provide some quality innings and can be an innings eater in blow outs. No more. A 5th starter if people go down like they did. If he was viewed as anything more than that he would have been the 5th starter in the end when Locke was getting shelled.

    And if you are going to base your decision to believe you can get similar value from Cumpton and Gomez based on a small sample size from this season, then how in the hell can you point to the small rough patch that Burnett experienced down the stretch after a long successful career to not keep him?

    I think you are over valuing the success of small sample sizes of average pitchers and you are more than slightly misinformed. 2014 will be exciting nonetheless, but I don’t see Brandon Cumpton
    , Jeanmar Gomez or any of the other pitchers you mentioned being difference makers or making the impact that an AJ Burnett can make.

    • apkyletexas - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:25 PM

      Locke will get another chance to begin the season, and if Wandy is healthy, he’ll fill out the starting rotation.

      There’s also the possibility that Karstens will be ready again to start the season.

  4. blynch67 - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    You guys overlooked the part about Burnett blowing up and choking.

    We’re all glad that the Pirates are on the rise again, but it’s time for your younger talent to step up.

    (Yankees FAN)

    • apkyletexas - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      Yep – lets not forget, Gerrit Cole had to take his start in game 5 against the Cardinals, because of AJ’s enormous meltdown in game 1

  5. chodgen - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    Once again, your putting your stock into questionable pitchers. Locke is a major risk, Wandy is no sure thing and Karstens was non tendered last year before signing a 1 year deal and then not pitching the entire season. The chances of Karstens even being with the team are slim. And as I alluded to earlier, you were wanting to throw Gomez, Cumpton etc into the rotation based off success in very small sample sizes and even someone like Pimentel who has done very little to earn a regular major league roster spot. If you are so quick to insert someone based on scattered success, why are you so quick to dismiss Burnett because of a slump down the stretch. Yes he got shelled in Game 1. In a ballpark he has never pitched well in against a lineup that has had success against him. I’ll take him back for the value he had getting us to that game 1 rather than crucify him for that one game. Are we saying that Cumpton or Gomez deserved that game 1 start and would have done better?

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