Should Pittsburgh Pirates Bring A.J. Burnett Back?

By Zach Morrison
A.J. Burnett
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

A.J. Burnett is going to be a free agent after the season, and he has said on more than one occasion that he may retire. According to Burnett, he is either going to retire or return to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He apparently enjoys playing for the Pirates a lot more than anyone could really imagine. Finally veteran players that are actually good at baseball are proud to say they play for the Pirates.

Burnett is 9-11 with a 3.39 ERA in 183 innings this season for the Pirates. In his last start, against the Cincinnati Reds, he surpassed 200 strikeouts for the season. Burnett has actually pitched better than his ERA states; his FIP is 2.77 and his xFIP is 2.92. Among National League starting pitchers, he leads in strikeouts per nine innings with 9.98. His 56.6 ground ball percent also leads the NL among starting pitchers. For the majority of the season Burnett has had a career year, but in his last five or six starts — excluding his most recent start — he has been struggling. He seems to cruise through the first few innings, but he will hit a wall in the fifth or sixth inning and allow four or five runs.

At the start of the 2014 season, Burnett will be 37. His pitches are still very good, even though his fastball isn’t quite as fast as it was when he was younger. His curveball is still a dominant pitch — it has to be a top two or three curveball in the NL. With Burnett entering his age 37 season, I would only feel comfortable with the Pirates offering him a one-year deal. Quite frankly, I’m not entirely sure how comfortable I am with that, but he has been so good for the Pirates on and off the field that the risk is worth taking. I would be fine with the Pirates offering Burnett a one-year, $12 million deal and saying take it or leave it. If Burnett takes it, great. If he doesn’t, the Pirates would have more money to spend elsewhere.

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