Pirates Eager to Sign A. J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, and Clint Barmes

A.J. Burnett pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates are eager to bring A.J. Burnett back, and could make him a qualifying offer. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Tom Singer has some free agent updates for the Pirates, highlighted by the Pirates being eager to sign three of their seven free agents: A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, and Clint Barmes.

Singer notes that the Pirates will likely make Burnett a qualifying offer, but that they don’t need to rush negotiations since he’s deciding between the Pirates and retiring. He also says that Neal Huntington could push hard to re-sign Barmes and Byrd during the exclusive negotiating window, before they have a chance to negotiate with other teams.

Out of the four other free agents, a few make sense on minor league deals. Kyle Farnsworth pitched well out of the bullpen, and wouldn’t be a bad guy to take a flier on if he’s available in January. Singer felt he could be re-signed under those circumstances. Jeff Karstens wouldn’t be a bad flier and depth option on a minor league deal, but nowhere near his price last year.

Earlier we heard that Justin Morneau wasn’t likely to get a contract offer during the exclusive window, but that the Pirates have still shown interest, making it seem likely that he’s a backup option.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • https://www.facebook.com/johnhabel3 John Allen Habel III

    If the choice for burnett is the pirates or retire. Why do the pirates need to make a qualifying offer. Why not see what it would take. Or has he said he will only play for that much?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      If he changes his mind and signs elsewhere, they wouldn’t get compensation without the offer.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

        But, do we really want to pay him $14 mil? I think not.

        • skliesen

          Not your money Lee.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

    Byrd is a bit surprising. Feels like the conventional wisdom here and elsewhere is if NH had to make a choice, he would upgrade 1B before RF since (1) Tabata didn’t embarrass himself; (2) in Lambo you have an intriguing power option; and (3) Polanco could be ready by the ASB.

    Not that I would mind having a proven hitter in the 5-spot.

  • https://www.facebook.com/marty.leap Marty

    Would love to have all 3 back. Especially Byrd as a bridge to Polanco. Can move him once Polanco arrives if need be. Pedro at clean up vs RHP, Byrd vs LHP. Plus, I want Lambo nowhere near the 25 man next year.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      I like Lambo…he’s better than Tabata….:) :) :)

    • stickyweb

      I hate to break it to you Marty, but the chance of Lambo being on the 25 man roster is exactly 100%. Why don’t you want him there, you don’t like HRs or you don’t like getting good offensive production for the league minimum? Sure it’s easier to sign Morneau with Nutting’s money, but the Bucs still have to have a lot of league minimum guys each year to be able to pay the big guys that have already reached arb and free agency. Why not try one that led the minors (or came very close) in HRs last year while still being age appropriate?

  • https://profiles.google.com/113775827574412117932 Paula Wendt

    Tim,

    What are the chances of signing Byrd and moving him to 1st once Polanco is ready?

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.yazhynka Richard Ya’Zhynka

    Byrd might be the right move, especially given the dearth of quality free agent first-basemen.

    He has averaged 1.63 WAR over the past three years. At $4.5M per win, his free agent value is $7.3M per year. That could be a bargain.

    I did my own home-made projection for Byrd and I have him hitting .287/.338/.451 — .789 OPS. That wouldn’t equal his 2013 WAR of 4.1, but with slightly above average fielding and average base running, it would give him a WAR of approximately 3.2.

    3.2 WAR would make Byrd a $14.4M value in 2014; almost double his current WAR-based free agent value.

    I based my projection upon Byrd’s HR%, BB%, K%, and HBP% over the last three years. Those stats are much more consistent year-to-year across MLB than are batting average, OBP, Slugging, doubles, triples, and batting average on balls in play. I gave Byrd an expected BABIP of .321, based on his BABIPs for the last 3 seasons and regressed to an adjusted league average according to Byrd’s high infield hit percentage.

    It gave me something to do while intermittently passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

      Some hobby.

      • http://www.facebook.com/richard.yazhynka Richard Ya’Zhynka

        Unfortunately, I forgot one step in my projection process – regressing Byrd’s HR/FB% to league average – and that skewed everything including my analysis of Byrd’s free agent value.

        Byrd’s HR/FB% for 2013 was 16.4%. League average was 10.5%. That’s a vast difference and brought Byrd’s 2104 projection down to .267/.315/.410 — .725 OPS — 2.0 WAR.

        Those numbers give Byrd a 2014 dollar value of $9 million, still more than his current $7.3 million WAR-based free agent value, but nowhere near my errant 3.2 WAR and $14.4 million calculation.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

          if you’d quit giving out candy, you wouldn’t have messed up.

          Eat it yourself!!!!!

          :) :)

          • http://www.facebook.com/richard.yazhynka Richard Ya’Zhynka

            Good point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.yazhynka Richard Ya’Zhynka

    I believe the best outcome for the Pirates regarding Burnett would be to have him turn down a qualifying offer and sign with another team, giving the Pirates would draft pick compensation.

    I hope the Pirates re-sign Barmes. They need a very good defensive SS because a major factor in the teams 2013 success was that the pitchers led MLB in groundball percentage by a wide margin.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      But, do you want to risk spending $14 mil on him and then having him accept it?

      • http://www.facebook.com/richard.yazhynka Richard Ya’Zhynka

        I wonder whether Baltimore or Washington would be interested in trading for him if he accepts the qualifying offer.

        • Andrew

          The MLB does not allow sign and trades to get around the QO.

  • csnumber23

    I agree with a post above that a qualifying offer to AJ would work well if he signed elsewhere. If I’m not mistaken, I think that would net a compensatory pick between rounds 1 and 2. I am ok with him coming back too, I think he has another good year in him as our number 3 or 4, not number1.

    I would like to bring Byrd back but I don’t want it to hold up Polonco.

    I could care less about Barmes. Bring him back or another cheap veteran with solid D. Doesn’t matter to me.

    I assume if Morneau is the backup plan, that the first choice is probably Loney. I am fine with either of them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      A QO is $14 mil, correct? That’s a heckuva gamble that he won’t accept it.

      • csnumber23

        That’s true, especially with having to pay 7.5 of Wandy’s 13 mil. That might be wasted money as I’m not sure Wandy will pitch at all.

      • https://www.facebook.com/mike.rosati.75 Mike Rosati

        Just curious, why don’t you want AJ back?

  • CalipariFan506

    I’d give Burnett a QO just as I would any other player in that position. Never trust a guy when he says he wants to stay or retire. All he’s trying to do is get some team any of the other 29 to call his bluff.

  • https://www.facebook.com/earl.gallagher Earl Gallagher

    Do you think if Byrd accepts the Pirate offer they would consider getting him some reps at first base during Spring training? He could man right field until Polanco is ready to take over and then slide over to first on a full time basis.

    Byrd strikes me as a decent athlete with good hands so the transition wouldn’t be that hard. Byrd is in way better shape than Stargell, who was a fat tub of goo when he manned first base at the same age.

  • jamminjoe66

    If they sign Barmas I’ll save some money. I spent enough money the last 2 years watching him either swing & miss or hit little sissy grounders or bloops to the 2nd baseman. You can find a stat now days that says Barajas wasn’t horrible. I’ll stick to the eye test. Barmas is horrible.

    • https://www.facebook.com/mike.rosati.75 Mike Rosati

      Why would you trust an eye test over statistical evidence, evidence that shows Barmes is a pretty good defensive SS, which is pretty important given how much this pitching staff relies on GBs.

      • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

        It’s hard to argue with Barmes’ defensive abilities, but it’s equally hard to argue with his offensive ineptitude; if your OPS pales in comparison to Pedro Ciriaco’s, you have some issues. Barmes’ skill set isn’t without value, but it’s not a rare one, either. Frankly, the Pirates should be able to find someone with Barmes’ approximate skills for much cheaper than it would take to bring him back.

  • jamminjoe66

    My eye test showed me his off balanced throws for no reason other then very poor fundamentals has to be picked out the dirt which isn’t covered in your geek stats. I’ve never seen him make a play that made say wow now that’s a nice play. His offense has made me miss Rafael Balliard. He doesn’t give any position flexibility as a bench guy. He can’t pinch hit. He can’t pinch run. Everyone wanted (me included) John McDonald run out of town for the same reasons I just mentioned. Everyone said SS was an area of need before trading dead line. So why give Hurdle his old smelly toy back that he played with way way way to much. Move on from dead weight.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      Actually, people wanted McDonald gone because there was no use having him with Barmes and Brandon Inge on the same roster, providing the exact same thing.

      • https://www.facebook.com/mike.rosati.75 Mike Rosati

        Exactly right Tim. Also, nobody is asking that Barmes be the full time SS, just an extremely capable backup. Newsflash: You’re not going to find a good hitting, good fielding, backup SS…If they were out there, they’d be a starting SS on a team at this point. If you don’t resign Barmes then you’re going to need a McDonald type player, which would cost just the same…Finally, “My Geek Stats”? Dude, it’s 2013, the value of these “Geek Stats” has been proven time and time again, most recently by the organization that this entire website is about….You want to have a conversation about baseball, but knocking numbers because they’re “Geeky”..well, you need to get with the times my man.

        • Y2JGQ2

          The issue Mike is that the numbers aren’t going to tell you Hurdle will refuse to use Barmes in the way a solid defensive shortstop who can’t hit should be used…….which is why you can’t sign him. The loyalty factor will not allow Hurdle to trust Mercer with Barmes there. If Barmes hits. 250 in april, he’d be your starter until July even if he hit .145 the rest of the first half. Its just reality, and you can’t sign him for that reason alone. Get someone equal to Barmes who ISN’T Barmes, and make the deal