Week In Review: Will A.J. Burnett Return to the Pirates?

We produce a lot of content each week at Pirates Prospects. During the regular season it can be easier to keep up, since baseball is the only sport going. But baseball news doesn’t stop in the off-season, and it can be easier to miss topics with football and hockey going on at the same time, not to mention college sports, and the NBA if you’re into that sort of thing. So each Sunday we will be recapping the articles from the previous week, making sure that you don’t miss a thing during the off-season.

And because I’m very interested in keeping this site running for the long-term, I’m always going to start out by saying that you should pre-order our 2014 Prospect Guide, which is released in mid-December after the Winter Meetings. We’ve been doing a weekly Prospect Rewind, looking back at previous reports from previous Prospect Guides. This week we looked at Tyler Glasnow’s rapid progression.

A.J. Burnett Pirates
Will A.J. Burnett Return to the Pirates? (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Will A.J. Burnett Return to the Pirates?

The big news this week was that the Pirates didn’t make A.J. Burnett a qualifying offer. Later in the week, Neal Huntington said that the Pirates can’t afford Burnett at $14 M. I talked about how Burnett is worth $14 M, and how he would be a value at that price based on his last two years and the rising cost of pitchers.

On the other side of this issue is the process of qualifying offers. On Monday I wrote that the Draft Compensation System remains broken. That was shown on Friday when it was announced that the Yankees could pick five times before the Pirates pick twice. Basically, MLB has a system where small market teams say they can’t afford to make a qualifying offer to try and get a draft pick or keep a player. MLB awards additional picks to teams who make those qualifying offers and lose players. However, only the big market teams can afford those offers, unless it’s a small market team with zero risk of the player taking a one year deal. The end result is that the Yankees could get three compensation picks, the Red Sox could get three picks, and the Pirates will get none. Meanwhile, the Yankees also have the option of re-signing guys like Robinson Cano for around $300 M total, while the Pirates hesitate on spending $14 M on an excellent pitcher.

The Yankees can do anything they want with their major league payroll. The Pirates will have trouble keeping guys like Pedro Alvarez in uniform past free agency. That used to be fine when the Pirates could spend in the draft and have some sort of advantage. Now that advantage has been reversed. Think about it this way. A few years ago the Yankees were out-spending the Pirates on major league payroll, and usually by the amount that you’d pay an entire team. At the same time it was very possible for the Pirates to out-spend the Yankees in the draft and international markets. Most years the Pirates did out-spend the Yankees in those areas, but the total combined amount wouldn’t pay for a good starter. In 2014 the Yankees will be able to out-spend the Pirates in major league payroll, the international market, and the draft. It makes you wonder if these rules are really being set up to make sure the big market teams have all of the advantages.

As for Burnett, I’ve said this a few times, but I’ll repeat it again. I don’t think Burnett will go from thoughts of retiring to a multi-year deal. If he’s going to sign a one-year deal, I think it’s possible that he gives the Pirates a discount, rather than going for the biggest one year deal he can get. I could be wrong on this. I’m just giving Burnett the benefit of the doubt that he’s serious when he says he only wants to play for the Pirates or retire. I’m also giving him the benefit of the doubt that he’s very serious about considering retirement.

Free Agent Rankings

Free agency began this week, which means there were a lot of rankings. The Pirates are coming off a year where they made the playoffs for the first time since 1992, and as a result, they’re getting connected to a lot of free agents. Here are the different rankings and projections.

**MLBTR Projects Burnett and Byrd Will Return to the Pirates

**Keith Law Releases His Top 50 Free Agents

**More Free Agency Rankings and Salary Predictions

Also, the list of Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League Free Agents was released. The Pirates also re-signed two Minor League Free Agents.

Awards Season

It’s awards season, and the Pirates have been very active. Here are the award winners from the past week.

**Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez Win Silver Slugger Awards

**Francisco Liriano Named the NL Comeback Player of the Year

Next week Andrew McCutchen and Clint Hurdle are finalists for BBWAA awards. McCutchen is up for the NL MVP award, and Hurdle is up for the NL Manager of the Year award.

Winter League Highlights

Gregory Polanco has been hot so far in the Dominican Winter League, and John Dreker took a look at the quality of the pitchers facing Polanco. Meanwhile, Polanco was out with the flu this week, as well as a death in the family, but returned to the lineup on Friday night to reach base safely in his 15th straight game.

**Matt Hague hit his second homer this week in the Dominican.

**Scottsdale was eliminated from the playoffs in the Arizona Fall League. They only have four games left in their season.

**Alen Hanson had a great all-around game earlier in the week in the AFL.

2013 Season Recaps

**I finished the season recaps, looking at the 2013 seasons and projecting ahead for Third Base and Left Field. Check out the Season Recap Index for the recaps and analysis on all of the positions, plus recaps for each minor league team and a top ten prospect list for each team in the system.

Other Notes

**The Rule Five draft is coming up in less than two weeks. I looked at who the Pirates should protect.

**Jim Benedict impressed the Phillies in his interview for their vacant pitching coach position. However, he turned them down this week, and decided to stick with the Pirates. If you haven’t heard of Benedict, then check out a few of his accomplishments here. If the Pirates have a plan to go with a buy-low, bounce back candidate instead of Burnett, then it will be great to have Benedict back, since he has worked with a few of the previous bounce back guys already.


  • Nice to have A.J. back, but if he is not, the Bucs will be fine.

  • Before I forget, Happy Veterans Day to my brothers and sisters who were in the Armed Forces of the United States – all gave some, some gave all.

  • You can look at AJ and listen to him, and look at some of the conditions in past contracts and realize that there is no standard by which he can be measured. If he left after 2013 I would understand it because he was in the trash heap in NY and Cashman could not find a trading partner until NH and the Pirates stepped up with a hope and the ability to get a possible #1 guy for the Rotation for only $8 mil. Then he validated it with another excellent year in 2013 and he can go out a WINNER. I can understand him leaving if he is so inclined, but he is just too much of a gamer to leave it now. He has been there and knows that in 2015 the Pirates will be fairly well set with the young SP’s who will be the future of the Pirates and he has provided a bridge to that future. The thing we do not know anything about is his personal life, his wife, and I think a 9 year old and a 13 year old? What are their thoughts about another year? Whatever he chooses, he owes no apology to anyone.

  • Since Burnett’s set for life 10x over, & he knows the Buccos can win it all & he basically likes the regular standing ovations from the Pirate fans (vs. vitriol from former Yankee fans in that hothouse of high expectations); I wouldn,t be surprised if he goes for 1 more year, with an option…not sure if, like in football, incentive laden contracts can be set up, so that if he pitches the whole season like an ace, he can get $14kk??

    • You can’t include quality based incentives such as ERA, WHIP, wins, etc, but you can include innings pitched, games started/finished and awards

  • I think the thing with Burnett is maybe Hurdle has simply told NH he doesn’t want him back.

    • I doubt that very much. Huntingdon just isn’t going to negotiate against himself. That seems very obvious.

      • I hope that wasn’t his worry. He is still negotiating against 29 other teams, no matter what Burnett says.