It's Time for the Pittsburgh Pirates to Let A.J. Burnett Go

By Jeff Hartman
AJ Burnett
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve been a Pittsburgh Pirates fan for very long you know the history and the frugal nature of the baseball club. Even after the success of the 2013 Pirates, it seems that some things simply never change. When the Pirates decided to not sign their 2013 opening day starter, A.J. Burnett, to a $14.1 million offer they essentially put the price tag on their stud fire baller. It has been reported that the Pirates offered Burnett a deal that fit in their operating budget which he declined.

With news now being leaked that Burnett does want to pitch again in 2014 Pirates fans were excited to see their guy back on the mound at PNC Park. However, Burnett’s “retire or stay with the Pirates” statement which was echoed numerous times after the season ended last year seem to be words and nothing more. Burnett is reportedly ready to test the market and see his value.

Some sites have Burnett’s value close to $30 million for two years. That is just too steep for the Pirates, and I don’t blame them. The more I think about the situation, the more I think it is time for the Pirates to let their former ace find greener pastures. If Burnett turned down the Pirates’ offer and wants to make more then let him go. Believe it or not, the Pirates should be able to obtain success without Burnett.

The Pirates’ rotation without Burnett would look something like this: Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez, Edinson Volquez and/or Jeff Locke. I know Pirates fans will see that back end and wonder how long that will last with Rodriguez’s injury history and Locke’s second half failures last season. Nonetheless, there might be other options as well. Everyone talks about Jameson Taillon and rightfully so, but no one is talking about Brandon Cumpton. Cumpton came up to pitch for the Pirates in six games and posted a stellar stat line – 2-1 record, 2.05 ERA, 22 Ks, five BBs and only allowed eight runs. Granted, I realize this is just a small sample size, but Cumpton has proven he can step in if need be. If the above rotation could hold the fort until mid-season when Taillon is set for the call-up just as Cole was last year, it will only help bolster the rotation.

There will always be fans who want more from the organization. More payroll, more TV money and even more wins than last season, but this time it is smart to let Burnett walk. If you saved yourself $15 million, think about how that money could be used at the trade deadline or on free agents. The Pirates are built around pitching, I understand that, but they are also not built to overpay any one particular player.

If A.J. Burnett wants to play elsewhere then by all means good luck. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty for the Pirates organization. However, if he is going to stay then it will be within the Pirates’ budget. Anyone else see that happening? Me neither. It was fun while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for and  also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on  Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+

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