Pirates Won’t Pay A.J. Burnett Market Rate


The A.J. Burnett situation hasn't changed much. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
The A.J. Burnett situation hasn’t changed much. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

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.

  • One issue about the Bucs identifying and then acquiring Burnett and Liriano is that other teams are going to analyze this to see if they can find out why the Bucs went after these two.

    There is going to be more competition for bounceback type candidates meaning at least some of the players the Bucs identify are going to be sought by other teams. The Bucs have to stay ahead of the curve on this and I”m not really sure that is possible to do. the downside is the ones that are more likely to bounceback are going to be out of the Bucs price range and the ones that are in the Bucs price range are going to carry more risk or even more risk and less upside.

  • Let me premise this by saying, I don’t think that Nutting/the Pirates are cheap. They have revenues that allow them to spend X number of dollars on players. Last year that number was about $75 million. We also know that the Bucs will be getting an additional $25 million from MLB’s television package, that attendance was the second best in PNC Park history, and FC has said the teams payroll would grow as attendance grew. Based on that, I see no reason why the Pirates cannot have a $100 million payroll next year. With all of that extra money and how well the team performed last year, isn’t this a year to pay more known commodities to shorter term deals, even if they have to pay market rates, or dare I say it, above market rates to ensure a short term deal.

    I’m all for finding value and definitely believe the Pirates need to be based on value spending, but not everyone on the team has to be paid below market value. No team gets credit for having the most wins per dollar. So, to me, its disheartening to hear NH say that they cannot pay market value for players. I would hope that the play on the field and the influx of revenue would compel them to sign guys we know can help as opposed to guys that can help if they bounce back.

    One last thought, if they are not going to make a free agent pick with the extra revenue, I hope that they use it to sign the younger guys through arbitration or a few free agent years, even if they have to pay a bit more than they would have liked to in the past. I would attempt to do it with Marte and Polanco (even earlier than the Rays did with longoria). Taillon and Cole would also be nice but I don’t believe Boras would allow it.

    • BQ, fair enough points in most of your post. But I have one quibble. You say “I would hope that the play on the field and the influx of revenue would compel them to sign guys we know can help as opposed to guys that can help if they bounce back.”

      Nobody “knows” that a free agent will help. You may think they are a safer bet than going with an unproven rookie, and you may even think it’s worth spending millions to find out, but you can never be sure. No doubt the Angels were sure that Albert Pujols would help them out, but it hasn’t really worked out that way. And if you can’t count on Phat Albert, how can you be “sure” about Morneau, Loney, Kendrys, etc? And if the downfall can happen to Pujols at 33, it sure as hell can happen to a pitcher at 37.

      • I generally agree, but I think some free agents are more of a sure things than others. I think burnett is more of a sure thing than any other free agent they can sign for under $10 million a year. But what most scares me is if they actual won’t pay market value for a free agent. Last year they finally paid a market rate for martin and look at how that worked out.

    • Why should the goal of any business be to break even? It bothers me when fans say that 100% of revenue should be put back into players salaries as if there are no other organizational costs or that the risk taker isn’t entitled to return.

      • I don’t begrudge them a profit and believe they have made these past years. I’m also sure that Nutting pays himself a nice salary for being CEO. however, if they aren’t willing to invest available money in the team, I may not be willing to invest my time and money to watch them.

    • Where’s the “like” button?

      While I’m not sure Nutting can do $100 mill just yet – nor should he if the right parts aren’t available – $90 seems well within his ability to still make a decent profit and leave some flexibility for next year’s trade deadline. According to Tim’s chart, Bucs are projected at $63 mill right now post-arb, leaving $27 mill potentially available.

      At a $90 mill payroll, if we think AJ is $14, Loney is $8, re-signing Barmes is $3, then you still have $2 left over. If the argument is that Bucs could find a cheaper AJ for say, $8 mill, then where does that other $6 mill go? Nutting’s pocket? There doesn’t appear to be a screaming need elsewhere on the roster that would require that kind of cash.

      I’m just not understanding Neal’s adamance on this position. Sure AJ could go downhill in a hurry. So could pretty much anyone else he acquires. The Bucs FO bought a lot of goodwill last year. Hopefully they don’t spend it all this winter.

      • I dare say that the Pirates would not even have to go to $90M to keep AJ, bring in a 1B, and get a backup shortstop. I think they could do it for $85 or less. They could bring back AJ at a Tim Hudson type deal 2 years $24M and then bring in Loney for $7-8M per year and then bring in Barmes for $2M per year and they’d be right at the $85M mark and really would only be $10M over where they ended last season even though we know they have more revenue to spend and would still have room to make additions throughout the year.

        Here’s my idea, and its only an idea and I don’t have any say so it doesn’t matter, but anyways: Pirates trade for Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis from the Mets and bring back AJ and they do that and stay under $80M. Here’s why this works: the Pirates need a backup shortstop and a platoon 1B and they need to bring AJ back. The Mets are ready to move on from Tejada for a series of reasons and the same with Ike Davis. The Pirates are the perfect partner to put a package together to get both players. Both players are under the age of 26, Tejada is only 24, and have the ability to serve important roles on this team. Tejada’s glove isn’t as good as Barmes, very few are, but he’s a positive UZR whereas Mercer is negative. He’s also able to mature and grow a little in his role as well and a change of scenery would be good for him. I have documented how I think Ike Davis would do as a RH only platoon. I think you get both players for under $8M and then bring AJ back. If you look at the list of free agent SS beside Barmes you’re not going to find too many attractive options and Davis is comparable to Loney but would be cheaper financially with more years of control at the lower price. What prospects would we have to give up? I don’t know. I think we’d have to give up someone from the major league roster, like a relief pitcher and a couple C+-level prospects.

        • It’s an interesting thought. I kinda like Ike, but he’s a very slow starter – far more than Adam LaRoche. I don’t have a clue why that is. But I’d love to have Ike in September! Ike is also prone to taking his struggles at the plate into the field with him. He made some really bad errors last summer – mental and physical.

          Tejada is an enigma. Kid definitely has talent and maybe he’d do better playing for a winner, but he mentally checks out at alarming frequency with the Mets – probably more than Ronny Cedeno did here.

          • Oh, no, neither are perfect that is certain. I think, however, that Ike is similar to what you’d get out of the FA market this offseason, although Loney might be more consistent. As for Tejada, yes, I agree with your analysis on him and his mind-boggling inconsistencies at times. However, again, on the less expensive end it wouldn’t be a terrible flier to take on the kid, considering that, again, the FA market is not very plentiful. Barmes is better for our needs as a defense-first player.

  • Another thing to consider is AJ’s impact on the team. It’s undeniable in hindsight that he was the perfect fit for the 2012 Pirates, bringing attitude to a team that had been kicked around for far too long. What’s more in doubt is whether his act has worn a little thin and if it’s time for other leaders (Cutch, Martin, Cole) that don’t try to show up the manager during games to step it up. I know I was tired of the glares at his teammates by the end of the season.

  • While I don’t really see the advantage of NH saying something like this in public, like everyone else in the world, I’m much more interested in what he does than what he says.

    To those that just don’t see any bounce back pitchers on the market, I’m sure you were popping champagne corks the day AJ was traded for and the days Frankie was signed (double the bubbly, thanks to the broken arm). The point is that they were under the radar, half the fans either didn’t like the moves or didn’t care, yet both were substantial wins for NH. He could do it again and has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt.

    I find it very interesting that both Morneau and Loney are still available, with one less team (Rangers) in the market. Maybe NH is seeng what the market is on this type of player and would be happy to have either one, though he may have a preference, just not a large enough preference to jump the gun and set the market price for him.

    I like my Kool Aid in either cherry or grape, and it was especially sweet this Oct. as the Pirates were winning playoff games, PLAYOFF GAMES! NH has turned a franchise around from total rubbish to one of the premier organizations in baseball in 6 years. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. If you think NH is an idiot, doesn’t know what he’s doing, the luckiest SOB in the world, etc., you are ignoring a lot of evidence. And I dare say you’ll be complaing after the Bucs win a couple of World Series and then miss the playoffs one year.

    • babeadamsforthehall
      November 26, 2013 10:37 am

      If this organization is not going to be financially willing to step up to the plate and pay ANYONE market price EVER, then I fear it will be a cold day in hades before we sniff a World Series victory.

      I am not certain that I put the blame on NH for this, except the fact that he said it publically, which is just batsh%$ insane. The constraints that he is working under come from the man who signs his paychecks. If, after the season the Pirates just had, three straight seasons of attendance boosts, new revenue from tv, Nutting is still unwilling to open up the purse strings to actually pay someone market value, then I believe that all hope is lost. In that respect, I feel somewhat sorry for NH.

    • Actually, I was a huge fan of both the trade for AJ and the Frankie signing, even the pre-injury contract restructured signing. Why? Because the profiles of the player made sense. You say that no one saw the rebounds coming, but I beg to differ. The statistical evidence was strong in their favor and quite honestly I am of the personal belief that its tougher for pitchers in the AL than the NL. I have always been a fan of bringing pitchers from the AL to the NL because I believe their numbers will be stronger than what the posted in the AL. Maybe its the DH or maybe its more hitter-friendly parks, I do not know and I am not going to try to really argue the validity of the point because it has always just been a belief of mine. So for ME I can tell you that I was in favor of both of those additions.

      Now, here’s what I can tell you: 1) its early in the offseason still, but the additions that are most similar to the above are mostly gone, 2) AJ Burnett was known to be on the trading block for some time that offseason and as of yet there is no similar pitcher available (again it is still early though), 3) this offseason had only a couple pitchers who I liked to rebound, and even only a select few that Tim liked to be the rebound-type pitchers and they are mostly going-going-gone or are still $10M. The best option was Josh Johnson and I actually understand the Pirates trying to get him for under the $14.1M price tag that AJ would have been. However, he’s gone…and now there is no AJ available, unless you have some interest in Phil Hughe, which I do but I do not see him as the same type of pitcher or as likely to provide the pitching we need as much as AJ would.

      Final point and this is really important: people need to think about this fact–AJ Burnett made $16M last year of which the Pirates only paid $8 and he was every bit worth the $16 and, therefore, was worth the $14.1M QO. However, I want to take it further…Neil Walker was mediocre if not down right bad much of last season and he made $3.3M. Through arbitration this offseason he’s likely to approach $5M, I believe the estimate is like $4.8. That is a rase of 46% for a player who did not really have that great of a season (he was making less than what his numbers said he deserved but that’s the nature of the system). Now, I completely understand that $5M and $14M are completely different numbers and I completely understand how the arbitration system works and what that all means. HOWEVER, AJ Burnett was paid $8M by the Pirates last year…if you give him the same 46% raise over the portion that the Pirates paid that Neil Walker will get he’d be right at around $12M per year…I have said it before and say it again here…I think the Pirates could bring AJ Burnett back to the team for the same type of deal that Tim Hudson got 2 years $22-25M…and that’s well within the budget and well within the standard “raise” that this team will pay out to other players this offseason.

  • I was perplexed when they did not QO AJ – and with the passage of time I am only more perplexed. The $14.1 for a year would likely have been a bargain – and had he signed elsewhere, a draft pick would come in handy. Everyone seems to think that the Pirates need to find another Liriano or AJ and ignores the very different circumstances the team is in this year. They have five starters who are arguably above average ML caliber and have at least two options at Indy for depth – Cumpton and later in the year Tailon. The bounce back candidate will likely also start the year at indy – Jeff Locke. So going into the season starting depth is not the issue it was last year – and IF AJ had accepted the tender it would have given them a nice insurance policy that would have kept the pressure off of Tailon,

    The options out there to spend on are awful – you Loney birds are just that Loney. He had a nice season at Tampa Bay – but is not worth wasting any money on with Lambo available to pair with Sanchez.

    Then I get really depressed when I hear they are poking around Berkman and Furcal.

    I have told my season ticket agent that I will cancel and ask for a refund if I do not see the commitment to winning – and spending that we fans deserve.

    The new TV money – and the attendance and playoff game revenue impact justifies a payroll closer to $100M than the $80M that everyone seems content with. Bring back Byrd and AJ at reasonable rates would have been smart – and kept the team in solid contention from game 1.

    Instead we get this silliness – arguing over whether Decker or Dickerson were/are options.

    • I agree with some of this: AJ should have received the QO and that its not great to hear about Berkman and Furcal. But I have some trouble with much of the rest. First, you say we have 5 starters who are major league above average. What five would that be? Liriano, Cole, and Morton? That’s three. Who else? Wandy Rodriguez? We are not even sure he will be healthy enough to pitch let alone how long he’ll be able to pitch. Even then who is this 5th starter? Jeff Locke could be a bounce-back candidate, but his issue is that he’s gotten by with an extremely high strand% and walks way too many hitters. So basically we have three good starters, a big question mark, and an even bigger question mark…and this offseason’s free agent list is not promising and yet, despite increases in revenue and ability to spend, we cannot afford to bring AJ back on a QO? And, sadly, I am not sure that your season ticket agent really cares too much…sad? Likely true.

  • babeadamsforthehall
    November 26, 2013 12:07 am

    So NH is basically telling every free agent out there that if they are looking to get paid what the market says they should, then they should look to real organizations lie the Cardinals. He is telling every free agent out there that signing with the Pirates means signing for less than he could get elsewhere.

    Because so many of them are clamoring to play withus that they will take a discount for the privilege. Right.

    Here’s a tip NH. You earned some cache with the fanbase this past year. Statements like this are completely unnecessary, counter productive, and just plain stupid on so many levels. Just stop.

    Bargains are more important than winning basebal games anyway.
    I almost wish that this was some sort of shot across the Nutting bough, as that is the only way that saying something as stupid as this publicly makes any sense at all.

    • It’s important not to confuse fair market value and value under a capital budget constraint. Burnett is likely worth $14.1 MM or more in the open market, but he isn’t worth that much to the Pirates who operate under a smaller capital budget than most teams, NH is operating rationally given his budget constraint. Top drawer free agents, which AJ is one, must always gravitate to the large market teams that have larger budgets if they are to maximize their personal salaries. There is no sense in getting upset about it. It’s just the way it is.

      • babeadamsforthehall
        November 26, 2013 1:03 pm

        A self imposed capital budget constraint.

        But yes, NH must play under Bob Nutting’s rules. He simply doesn’t have to tell the world that he isn’t going to pay free agents market value. Kinda dumb.

  • Frankly, I am appalled, dismayed, (insert adjective of your choice) that Huntington would make such a statement regarding AJ. What he is really saying is “AJ, if you want to paid like a pitcher of your caliber, you will have to go elsewhere to get it, because we “WILL NOT” pay you that. Not can’t. Won’t. Perhaps Mr. Huntington is reading too many of his own press clippings?

    I am so tired of Huntington opening his mouth with these stupid statements. Why make this statement to the general public? What did you gain by it? Irritated a bunch of Pirate fans it would seem was its biggest result Same as his comments in 2012 regarding his deadline trades in which he didn’t bother to defend their quality, but rather their “years of control”.


  • If no AJ, who’s really left? Would Neal talk the BoSox into paying a big chunk of Dempster’s salary? Does Neal ignore Roberto Fausto Carmino Hernandez alarming HR rate and focus on the GB/FB ratio with a 2 year/$10 mill offer? A flyer on Johan Santana would likely still be expensive unless Santana and his agent would take a small contract to rebuild value. The options are pretty thin if one is looking at a ceiling under $10 mill for a starting middle rotation pitcher.

  • This is academic, but when Huntington states that Burnett is not worth $14.1 million why have a large majority of people balked. Has Burnett truly been worth 7.0 fWAR the last two years? It is somewhat accepted neither pure FIP WAR or ERA based WAR are correct and it is likely that Pirates have their own metrics. Burnett’s peripheral statistics has usually always been higher than his ERA, his career FIP WAR is 37.5, RA9-WAR 33.6, and ERA based WAR from baseball reference is 27.0.

    Supposedly certain pitcher types outperform their FIP, left-handed fly ball pitchers, why cannot certain pitchers under-perform their FIP. I understand that FIP and xFIP are better predictors but Burnett seems to be one of those pitchers that struggles with sequencing.

    Obviously WAR is an approximation, however I think in Burnett’s case relying on FIP WAR overstates his true value.

    • The Pirates probably have their own metrics, but I don’t think any metric that says Burnett is not worth $14 M is correct.

      If you’re saying that Burnett would cost $14 M, but you think you can get a similar player for less, then that’s another story.

      • I do not really have much of a point, other than FIP WAR overstates Burnett’s value. Normally, I hate arguments that cherry pick a player and attempt to argue that metrics do not apply, but I think it has some validity here. Ultimately even using $5 million/Win, yes Burnett is most likely worth $14.1 million. I am sympathetic to the sentiment that Burnett should have been given a QO, but given how little outsiders know in this case I cannot form a very strong opinion.

        I actually think the second point is harder to argue at least concerning the free agent market, maybe Robert Hernandez at one year, $5 million and Corey Hart, but both would have to hit the upper bound on their projections.

  • I do not think I said they wouldn’t spend money. I said that they won’t spend market-value. The problem with your thinking is that 2 $7M players are not always better than 1 $14M player. Consider this: at $14M you get an average of 3.5 WAR per year with AJ Burnett…look at the other “bounce back candidates” and what they are getting: Dan Haren ($10M) 1-5-1.8 WAR and Josh Johnson ($10M) on bounce back 2-2.5 WAR. Now you tell me what $7M will get us in this free agency period (and by that I mean look at the available players and tell me what $7M will get us)…we were going to give that to Liriano last year and, yes, that would have been worth it, but what player is like that this offseason? Jason Vargas was a $8M dollar average sign by the Royals and he’s what a 1.2-1.5 WAR player? Even if you get two of those players you won’t replace AJ. Yes, bounce-back players are nice and, yes, the Pirates have found success with AJ and Liriano and Martin in the last two years…but the Pirates should keep that talent now that they have it and have the money to spend to keep it. I doubt you get Loney for $7M…and I bet that you would barely get Justin Morneau for that much (maybe $6M if he’s desperate). So, again, what two players are available that you would rather have for $7M than Burnett for $14? I never said the Pirates wouldn’t spend money…I just said the under market-value signings are not always available and the Pirates should not solely rely on that when a player like AJ is available. Fangraphs has AJ Burnett as a 3.0 WAR in 2012, 4.0 WAR in 2013, and projects him as a 3.8 WAR in 2014…the Pirates should have given him the qualifying offer and he’s worth every penny of it.

    • I don’t know if this reply was to me, but if you’re arguing that Burnett is worth $14 M, then you’re basically saying what I said in the article.

      • My apologies, Tim. That reply was to implied. I do know that you agree that AJ’s value is clearly worth the money…and I believe you argued that he should have received a QO. There are other ways the Pirates can save money…AJ Burnett should be/needs to be a Pirate again next season.

    • Jared, I think that you’re forgetting that there’s a 2nd roster position in these equations. I’m getting from NH’s quotes that given the choice to spend $14m, he feels the Pirates are better served by getting 2 $7m players, than a $14m player and a league minimum replacement-level player.

      I’m not saying that I 100% agree with the thinking, but I think, all things being equal, NH would rather have 2 Russell Martins on the roster, than have A.J. Burnett and John Buck on the roster.

      It’s the difference between having 2 stars and 23 scrubs (the Brewers) or having 25 solid players (the Cardinals).

      Too often we talk about what the top players are getting, but we don’t often discuss how that impacts the bottom. Is A.J. Burnett worth $14m, probably (though we wouldn’t have said that a couple of years ago.) But is A.J. Burnett worth $14m if by keeping him you have to replace Neil Walker with Chase d’Arnaud? Or replace Russell Martin on the roster with Tony Sanchez?

      • The Pirates can afford Russell Martin and AJ Burnett. The Pirates have the money to get $14M AJ Burnett and another $7M player. Anyways, the argument you’re giving is flawed because the Pirates’ biggest areas of need, 1B, SS, and RF would be very difficult to upgrade for $7M and still get a rebound pitcher who could produce enough for $7M. Again, every offseason is different based on availability and the market…this offseason is not plentiful and the players who were good/decent candidates are getting gobbled up early. This offseason the Pirates’ best bet is to upgrade their team by keeping the status-quo…remember, AJ was brought via trade, not free agency…some off seasons you get the better bounce-back candidate via trade. So trade for Ike Davis to platoon at 1B and give the money to AJ. I really do question whether you get enough value doing it the way you are advocating this offseason…IF you get Loney for $8M and Vargas for $8M (like the Royals did) then you pay $16M for 4.0 WAR…more than what you’d have had to pay AJ.

      • impliedi, I understand your argument but NH is gambling a little too. AJ was almost a bird in the hand (or at least a first round pick in the hand) while there is going to be competition for these 2 $7 million a year players. Maybe enough competition that they need to get 2 or 3 year deals or that they get more than $7 million. Anyway it is an interesting off season. IMO, the pressure is on NH to come through as expectations are high for 2014 (and they should be). The team might regress some but I would expect the Bucs to win at least 90 games.

  • What Huntington says is the truth. If Burnett went out looking for the best deal he could get I wouldn’t be shocked if some team gave him 3/45. Given the Pirates market giving a 36 year old pitcher that kind of deal is simply something they can not do.

  • Interesting that some people are reading this as the Pirates are not willing to spend money. If I’m reading between the lines here, I get the feeling that NH is saying that if he’s going to spend $14m, he’d rather get 2 $7 million players, than one $14m, because that way the same $14m works on filling 2 holes pretty well, as opposed to filling one hole completely and completely ignoring the other.

    • Or to put it another way:

      Let’s say you’re putting together a $80 million payroll:

      What gives you the chances for a better all-around team?
      2 players making $32.5 million & 23 making minimum


      25 players making $3.2 million

      or (better yet, more like the Pirates)

      2 players making $10m, 2 players making $8m, 6 players making $5m, 5 players making $1.8m, and 10 players making minimum.

      In all instances, the same $80 million is being spent, but you get a better all-around team by spreading the wealth, as it were.

      • If the Pirates have $20M to spend this offseason, yes I would rather see $10+M of that go to AJ Burnett than that money go elsewhere. IF the Pirates think that their OK in the OF for now until Polanco is ready and only need a platoon at 1B then they should spend the money to keep the status quo in tact on the pitching staff, one of the better staffs in all of baseball…make a trade with the Mets for Ike Davis and pair him with Gaby Sanchez. Ike Davis, 3 year average, is a .850 OPS hitter against RH’ers and plays a decent 1B (last year was an all-around poor year for him) and is young still. Talk about a buy-low, bounce-back option. Spend the $$$ on AJ and bring in someone like Ike Davis via trade for the 1B platoon.

  • Reading the NH quote completely it says that if AJ or anyone else wants market-value they will have to go elsewhere. Why? The Pirates have money to be able to sign a market-value free agent if the player is right. AJ Burnett is worth the money and is a huge member of the starting pitching staff that was the major reason for our success last year. I know Tim Williams is interested in James Loney, but why would Loney sign with the Pirates for under market-value when he could go back to the Rays for under market-value. I get that the Pirates have been successful in the past couple seasons in getting under market-value players via trade and free agency…but the Pirates are very unlikely to get production of AJ Burnett for 8M that they paid for him this year. The Pirates could have paid 10-12M for Haren or Josh Johnson (they still may have chosen to play elsewhere, just for discussion sake) but that would be too much for them…and if they would give either of them that much then they could give AJ that much. AJ Burnett was ranked in the top 10 in Ks in MLB last year, top 30 in ERA, and at the top in K/9. Even at his age he is pitching like one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, is worth the money, and is the anchor of this pitching staff…if they cannot pay him then who can they/will they pay? I am not saying that the offseason is over because they haven’t don’t anything yet…I am skeptical because the above quote does not inspire the most confidence. Yes, there have been some successes with this approach in the past, however, the fans came out because the team was winning, there is increased revenue, and increased revenue from TV and the Pirates HAVE the money…now spend the money to keep the team winning: re-sign AJ Burnett (maybe they bring him back mid-season so the deal is prorated) but do not tell us that free agents need to come here on under market-value deals or not at all. The money is there and the team has holes…

    • I think it’s more about what Burnett could get on the market. Loney’s market rate would be about half of what Burnett’s market rate would be.

      I’d also guess that the alternatives factor into this decision. The Pirates have gotten top of the rotation starters in each of the last two years for much less than $14 M. This was a result of a system, and wasn’t luck. So I could see why they’d avoid paying that money to any pitcher if they believe that they could do this again.

      • Tim, I get why the Pirates are saying what they are saying and that they believe that their system can get bounce-back success. I am, though, perplexed by who those players would be THIS offseason. Maybe Phil Hughes. I think they could get him for a multi-year deal for $7.5-8M and he could bring back a 2+ WAR moving from that division and ballpark to ours and our pitching system. His gb% isn’t ideal and his pitch makeup isn’t ideal either for us, but looking at what is available he would be the most likely to give the WAR value for the likely payout. But, yes, I would rather spend more and get Burnett. And, yes, Loney will make much less than Burnett but he will not be cheap…and remember Burnett’s market value at 4 WAR is $20M but the qualifying offer was only $14.1M…so they still would have been getting great value, even if he only put up a 3.0WAR they would be getting a value.

        • go look up the similarities between kazmir and AJ last year. almost identical ERA, similar FIP with the big difference being AJ provides 50 more IPs. kazmir would cost half of AJ and could provide similar WAR. wasnt that far off last year.

        • At $14.1 MM Burnett would represent about 19% of a total $75MM budget, leaving 81% for the remaining 24 ballplayers on the active roster. It is simply too great of a fraction of the budget to invest in one player, especially a 37 year old whose performance may decline precipitously.

  • Who ever thought that is still drinking the Pirates Kool Aide!! Once the Pirates didn’t give AJ the QO I hope people dump what was left in their cup down the drain.
    Then you got the other fan base that thinks AJ owes the Pirates something like a “Home town Discount” even though he has no ties to our city.
    AJ has and will do what ever is best for his family as we would ours. So he can stay retired and spend the rest of his life making up all those years away from them or he can come back to pitch.
    If he picks the later option it won’t be with the Pirates, don’t care what AJ said this summer, that door closed as soon as no QO came to him. It should him what the Pirates thought of his services. AJ has a huge ego and his pride is worth more than the penny pinching Pirates are willing to spend. Good Luck AJ somebody will give you above market value for two year but it won’t be Pittsburgh, just glad the Cards don’t need pitching this winter. But the Reds sure do…

    • The pirates made the right call by not giving aj the qo. You talk about his ego, well most veterans are insulted when the get the qo and I’m sure they had talks with aj before the decision was made not to extend him an offer. Plus, why commit 14 million to
      him if we can fill other holes. We have plenty of depth and we have tailion coming up and then Kingham coming who both are going to be great. With cole’s progression, we will be fine. Don’t forget our rotation had Sanchez and Gomez as our 5 starters for the first month plus, so we can weather the storm until tailion is up. I also doubt he is looking for a 2 year deal if he is considering retiring or playing next season. And I could care less for the hometown discount. He will take less to play here because he likes it here and is a leader. He won’t be that if he goes to another team.

  • “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.”

    Tim – can you expound on how the timing of last year’s moves impacts the timing this year’s moves? I find that line of defense interesting but I don’t see any correlation between when and what NH did last year and when and what NH will do this year. Those two don’t seem to be related by any measure. But maybe I’m missing something.

    • I agree. The market this year seems to be very different, as many free agents have already signed. Last year Russell Martin was a “surprise” because he was one of the early signings. At the rate this year is going, only Robinson Cano will be left when the Winter Meetings convene. I’m not sure you can compare the two offseasons. This one seems to be moving much quicker.

      • That’s not really true. Last year there were a lot of signings before the winter meetings. B.J, Upton, Torii Hunter, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Jonny Gomes, and Russell Martin all got deals before the meetings, and all made $5+ M per year. There was also that weird situation where Mike Napoli agreed to a three year deal with the Red Sox, then something happened and they eventually officially signed him to a one year deal in January.

        I think the only difference is that the Pirates are coming off a contending season, so people notice this stuff more. There are still a ton of people left on the market. There will still be quality options in January. This is baseball, not football where all of the free agents are grabbed up immediately.

    • Two parts to this. First is the “when”. Most moves in baseball come around the winter meetings or later. Some moves come earlier, obviously. But to act like the Pirates will do nothing because they haven’t signed anyone on November 25th is ridiculous.

      Second is the history. The Pirates haven’t given any indication in the past that they’re going to do nothing.