A few weeks back, John Perrotto reported that former Buc A.J. Burnett was possibly on the Pirates’ radar once again. While I figured it was just speculation at the time, now there’s this from Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
While it’s funny to me that they even scouted him (I think they know what he has to offer by now), it does show that there may be some serious interest there (especially if said scout truly did go out of his way).
Of course, everyone remembers the apparent fallout between Burnett and the Pirates, though Perrotto’s piece offered this:
Pirate fans seem torn on the thought of bringing Burnett back (as far as what I’m reading on social media). A.J. was greeted warmly when he pitched at PNC two weeks ago, for which he seemed grateful.
Rather than show his career numbers, here is what he’s done in 21 starts with Philadelphia this year:
He’s had a couple of bumps along the way (including Friday’s outing), but pitched some of his best baseball of the year over the past month — 2.94 ERA in seven starts from June 10th to July 11th. Overall, it hasn’t been a great year on the eastern side of the state for A.J.
Burnett was impressive (especially for his age) with the Bucs, but he’s now a year older, his strikeout numbers are down, he leads the league in walks, and he’s dealt with an inguinal hernia since April. That injury is a red flag, although he’s been pitching through it to this point.
I liked Burnett when he was here and think it’d be sweet to see him back in black and gold. On the other hand, I think the Pirates should shoot higher than this. The next 10 days will be interesting.
A.J. claims that he would want to stay in Philadelphia, but… the Phillies aren’t close to contending and are looking to deal any number of their overpaid veterans. It’s not surprising that Burnett is on the block, but it may be tough for the Phils to deal him — he has a limited no trade clause, presumably wants to stay close to home (like he did in free agency), and a contender would have to want him. The two logical fits are Baltimore (who had “very preliminary” talks with Philly about Burnett) and Pittsburgh.
Philadelphia is paying him a lot of cash this year (more than the Pirates wanted to pay him, obviously). If the two teams were to match up on a deal, I think the Pirates would like to see some money eaten by Philly if they tossed in a prospect (or maybe the Pirates could unload Jose Tabata and his contract on the Phillies?) Either way, Philadelphia doesn’t have much leverage because of his NTC, plus they just want to unload, so the price shouldn’t be crazy.
There’s also a 2015 option on his contract, which is interesting — it’s a $15 million mutual option, but if the team turns it down, Burnett can trigger a $7.5 million player option. That figure could increase based on how many starts he makes this season:
24 starts = $8.5 million
27 starts = $10 million
30 starts = $11.75 million
32 starts = $12.75 million
Considering he’s already leading the league at 21 starts, that possible player option will likely wind up being much more than just $7.5 million, barring an injury. But still plenty affordable for whatever team he ends up with.
It would be kinda weird to see the Bucs get him back after the two parted ways last winter. But the club’s apparently over it, enough so that they’re scouting him and possibly interested in acquiring him once again. I think Burnett would be up for coming back as well. It’d be cool to see A.J. get a chance to pitch for a contender — Pirates or otherwise — one more time before he calls it quits.