Well, this is awkward. Remember when A.J. Burnett said before the 2013 season that his plan after the year was to either return to the Pittsburgh Pirates for another season or retire?
Remember how he wanted to end his career in the Steel City, and that money wasn’t going to be a part of his decision? How did that work out? Burnett threw a tantrum after being skipped over for rookie sensation Gerrit Cole in Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, and from then on, things looked murky between him and the Pirates.
As it turned out, Burnett wouldn’t return to the Pirates for the 2014 season. He also didn’t retire, either. What he did do, however, was signed a one-year, $16 million deal with the cross-state Philadelphia Phillies that includes an option for a second year. The Pirates offered Burnett a one-year, $13 million deal, but he rejected it and ultimately signed with the Phillies.
I don’t think anyone really approached the 2014 season with a ‘Burnett vs. the Pirates’ angle, but if you did, you would notice that the Pirates are winning. The Bucs are 41-39 and the Phillies are 36-43, and guess what? The Pirates may be interested in bringing Burnett back for another run.
According to John Perrotto of USA Today and several other media outlets, the Pirates are looking at several rotation upgrades, most notably Brandon McCarthy and Burnett. The rotation could certainly use an upgrade or two, with Cole not being the same dominant pitcher that he was in the second half of last year, Francisco Liriano not being good at all, and Charlie Morton being relatively inconsistent.
The Pirates’ best pitchers have been Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton and Vance Worley; can anyone really expect that to last?
Burnett hasn’t been great this season, but would he represent an upgrade for the Bucs? Honestly, who knows. However, the city of Pittsburgh would have so many mixed emotions seeing Burnett play for the Pirates again. It would certainly be interesting. In 111 innings in 2014, Burnett has a 3.89 ERA and a 4.16 xFIP. His strikeouts are down, and he is leading the NL in walks. He isn’t the same pitcher that he was for the Pirates.
If Burnett were to return to the Pirates, I would love it and hate it at the same time. While I do give a lot of credit to him for turning the Pirates’ misfortunes around and making baseball in Pittsburgh relevant again, I don’t think I could deal with his antics and the persona that is A.J. Burnett.
If the Bucs do wish to re-acquire his services, fine, but I just hope they don’t overpay to make a Burnett return a reality.