Tom Singer has an update on A.J. Burnett, which has been pretty much like the previous updates. The Pirates are still waiting on Burnett to decide if he’s going to retire or return, and Neal Huntington says the Pirates can’t pay him market-value money.
To the latter issue, we knew the Pirates weren’t going to pay him market rate when they declined to make him a qualifying offer. That offer would have been for $14.1 M. Burnett has put up a 7.0 WAR combined the last two years, which means at $5 M per win he would be worth about $17.5 M per year. That makes a one year, $14.1 M deal a value for Burnett. What I found interesting was Huntington’s comments from the article.
“The unfortunate reality of the market is, if he’s into that, he’s gonna pitch somewhere else,” Huntington said. “We’ve got funds we would gladly allocate to A.J. If he or others want a market-value deal, they’ll sign elsewhere. It’s not just Pittsburgh; there are other markets where different resources must be used as effectively as possible.
“There is money available, but the question is how do we build around A.J.? We’ve got some other soft spots to address, and where do we go there with the money that A.J. may ultimately cost us?”
The bold part is for my emphasis. This is something Huntington has been saying for a long time, and it’s true. If Burnett really wanted to get paid, he could enter the market and the Pirates would have no chance of getting him. Or they could get him, at a sacrifice to other positions.
This doesn’t mean I agree with the decision to avoid a qualifying offer. I think that would have been a good value for Burnett with the way he has pitched the last two years. There’s also room in the payroll to fill other spots, especially if you give Andrew Lambo time at either first base or right field.
The comment about filling other needs is interesting. The big fear right now is that the Pirates will do nothing this off-season, because it’s almost December and they don’t have their Opening Day roster set. It’s kind of a ridiculous concern when you consider that they added Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano last off-season, and added A.J. Burnett the year before.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Pirates have money earmarked for specific players, or at least a group of possible players. They’ve had specific targets in each of the last two years, and I don’t think this year would be any different. I don’t think we can judge the Burnett situation fully until we see what happens. It may end up that he does return. That’s looking less likely the longer he debates whether to retire.