Worst Case Scenario Occurring For Pittsburgh Pirates With A.J. Burnett

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

After many, many months of waiting for a decision from A.J. Burnett, it appears we are nearing some sort of resolution to the situation. According to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Burnett is planning to return to pitch in 2014, and it may not be for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Burnett said just after the season ended that he would have to take some time before deciding his plans for 2014 — he would only be deciding between retirement and pitching for the Pirates, however, not another team. Today’s news is terrible for the Pirates.

I have been a strong supporter of the majority of the Pirates’ decisions in recent seasons. The decision to opt against offering Burnett the $14.1 million qualifying offer may be about to bite them in the rear-end pretty soon. At the time of the decision, I didn’t necessarily agree with it, but I did understand where they were coming from. He said he was going to return to Pittsburgh in 2014 or retire — offering him $14.1 million when they clearly thought they could sign him for less money wouldn’t have made sense if they didn’t think he would sign elsewhere, making the draft-pick compensation that comes with the qualifying offer meaningless.

If Burnett does decide to sign elsewhere, it’s going to be a huge step backwards for the Pirates and their front office. Whatever “good-will” the Pirates’ management earned from their a lot fanbase during their great 2013 season will be gone. The rational fans will most likely understand that they are playing with much less money than the team that ends up signing Burnett, but to some fans, that won’t matter. Burnett was a fan-favorite and it won’t be easy to see him pitching for a different team next season.

John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times and USA Today said the Pirates offered the veteran Burnett $8.5 million to pitch for them in 2014. Not offering him $14.1 million for one season is fine, I guess, but low-balling him with $8.5 million is insulting, quite frankly. Burnett was a top-five pitcher in the National League in 2013, leading the league in K/9 and ground ball percentage among starting pitchers.

If they offered $8.5 million to Burnett, then why on earth did the Pirates offer — and eventually sign — a terrible pitcher like Edinson Volquez $5 million for one season? The difference between Burnett and Volquez is much greater than a mere $3.5 million. If the Pirates do end up losing Burnett to another team (the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies have interest), it is going to make them look cheaper than ever, and honestly, they should be embarrassed.

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