No one knows yet whether or not A.J. Burnett will retire or choose to return for at least one more season. One thing we do know, or at least think we know, is that Burnett will either retire or pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates moving forward. He has stated on more than one occasion that it is the Pirates or no one if he chooses to continue his career.
If Burnett does choose to return, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington wants to try and get him, Marlon Byrd and Clint Barmes to re-signed before they are eligible to sign with other teams five days after the World Series ends. The Bucs will most likely offer Burnett the qualifying offer — one-year, $14.1 million. If he does decide to accept the qualifying offer, the Pirates will then attempt to sign Burnett to a new deal, probably a two-year deal worth somewhere around $25 million. All of this information was reported by MLB.com’s Tom Singer.
Byrd and Barmes have not stated whether or not they would prefer to stay with the Pirates in 2014. Both have said they would be open to a return, but neither has gone as far as Burnett has by saying it is the Pirates or bust next season. Neither Byrd nor Barmes are as important to the Pirates going forward as Burnett is, mainly because the Pirates have their top prospect, outfielder Gregory Polanco, almost ready to take over in right field at some point next season, and Jordy Mercer is likely going to be the starting shortstop in 2014.
No matter what happens with the trio of Burnett, Byrd and Barmes, it is a very smart plan for the Pirates to try to get them signed before other teams are allowed to negotiate with them. Signing them before other teams can negotiate contracts with them prevents a potential bidding war that the Bucs don’t have the money to participate in.