MLB teams have until Monday night at 5:00 PM Eastern Time to make qualifying offers to players that played on their team for the entire 2013 season. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, the only legitimate candidate to possibly receive a qualifying offer is starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.
The Pirates have a lot of rotation depth, so bringing back Burnett would be a luxurious move, not a necessity. The qualifying offer this year is one-year, $14.1 million — a number that would be very fair to both the Pirates and Burnett. The Pirates are a team that doesn’t have endless money, so $14.1 million is a lot to them. Burnett says he either wants to play for the Pirates or retire; he says it isn’t about the money, but we’ll see if that is true sometime soon. If the Bucs give Burnett a qualifying offer and he signs elsewhere, they will receive a compensation pick that comes between the first and second rounds in the MLB amateur draft next year.
Burnett was certainly one of the best pitchers in baseball last season. In 2013, the flamboyant veteran went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA in 191 innings. His 9.85 K/9 led National League starting pitchers, and his ground ball rate of 56.5 percent also was near the top of the list. His strong strikeout rate and ground ball percentage led to a very good 2.80 FIP, much better than his 3.30 ERA.
Even if Burnett sees a decline in performance with his advanced age, he could still be a reliable innings eater. Even if he declines a bit, declining from one of the best pitchers in baseball isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, unless it is drastic. Having Burnett back for $14.1 million for one year is a bargain, and it is a move the Pirates should try to make with no hesitation.