In a way, the Pittsburgh Pirates are being held hostage by one of their own free agents. They have been patiently waiting for A.J. Burnett to decide if he is going to retire or play another season for the Bucs. In the meantime, a few of their top offseason targets have been scooped up.
Last week, Marlon Byrd signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for two years and $16 million. The Pirates never made him an official offer, but they clearly had interest in re-signing him. On Monday, the San Francisco Giants signed veteran pitcher Tim Hudson to a two-year deal worth $23 million. The Pirates probably had interest in Hudson, but I don’t recall seeing a legitimate connection between the team and the pitcher. Also, the Pirates would have been morons for giving a 38-year-old that type of deal. Now, the last straw for me as a Pirates fan, the San Diego Padres have signed pitcher Josh Johnson to a one-year deal worth $8 million. Johnson was one of my favorite targets for the Pirates before he signed with the Friars.
The Pirates can’t fully go into offseason mode until they know what Burnett is going to do. Sure, they can make free agent offers, they can talk trades, but they can’t offer the same types of deals that they could if they knew Burnett wasn’t going to return. They need to save some money in case Burnett does decide to come back.
After seeing only a couple potential Pirates’ targets signed, I’m already in “freak-out mode.” At this point, if I’m Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, I’m giving Burnett a deadline — a “you’re either here or you’re not” deadline. Honestly, I wouldn’t let Burnett finish the week without a decision before I move on. I am a big Burnett fan; I love the passion, I appreciate what he has done for the Bucs, but at some point enough is enough.
Also, literally as I am typing this up, MLBTradeRumors.com’s Tim Dierkes is reporting that the Pirates were the first runners up for Johnson’s services. Maybe if they knew what Burnett was doing, they could have offered just a bit more money? Who knows? All I know for sure is that Burnett is certainly holding the Pirates back.