While it was somewhat commonly expected, we’ve now heard the words straight from the horse’s mouth: A.J. Burnett will either retire this offseason, or return to the Pirates. There was some understandable concern after he was passed over for the game five start against St. Louis in the NLDS that he might feel slighted, and thus less likely to come back, and after a choice quote from Clint Hurdle, there was even a bit more concern.
In the interview with Colin Dunlap on 93.7 The Fan last night, Burnett said that the first deciding factor in whether he retires or comes back to the Pirates for another season is his wife and kids, saying the decision was really more up to them than it was to him.
Whether you like Burnett’s playing style and fiery attitude or not, what you can’t deny is that he had a great 2013 season. He piled up 209 strikeouts, his most in a season since 2008, he posted an xFIP of 2.92, and had the best ground ball ratio in the NL.
His return as both a high end pitcher and as a solid veteran clubhouse presence should be welcomed with open arms, but there’s still plenty of road left before he re-signs with the Pirates. Even though the Pirates have a solid core moving forward into next season, the loss of Burnett would definitely not be an easy one to swallow. Hopefully AJ (and his family) make the decision for him to return to the Pirates one more time, for another run at a title for Burnett and the rest of the Bucs. If not, we can only wish A.J. and his family all the best. He’s been a fantastic guy to have in town the last couple of years, and the Pirates fanbase should be grateful for all he’s done. We’ll see what happens.