A.J. Burnett said he would prefer to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates if the Philadelphia Phillies traded him. Burnett returning to Pittsburgh is at the very least confusing, but the right hander has pitched well in seven of his last eight starts. Don’t forget just how tough A.J. is either, the former Bucs ace is pitching with a groin injury while putting up his numbers this year.
So let me get this correct, the Pirates refused to make an offer to Burnett this off season that would have earned them a compensatory pick and now the Pirates are scouting Burnett’s starts? My mind is blown a little bit by this. The only thing that could possibly make the mud clear for me would be if the Pirates were to pay less than their original offer and got some serious salary relief from the Phillies. Maybe the Phillies would accept Quincy Latimore as the prospect in the deal?
But seriously, why would the Phillies be inclined to give much of anything in a Burnett to the Bucs deal? At the very least, the Phillies are going to want a mid level prospect.
The real challenge for Bob Nutting is Burnett’s agent negotiated an excellent contract that pays him for making a set number of starts. The option value is $8.5M at 24 starts, $10M at 27, $11.75M at 30 and maximum of $12.75M at 32 starts. Can you imagine if A.J. gets to 29 starts and for some reason is held back for start number 30? Yikes.
So if the Pirates give up anything to get Burnett back in his favorite black jersey it would appear on the surface to be one of the worst deals the team will have made. Trade for Burnett whose velocity isn’t where it was last season. Trade for Burnett who is walking more batters than he has in the past. Trade for Burnett who has a hernia.
Jun 10, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) reacts after allowing a home run during the third inning against San Diego Padres right fielder Will Venable (25) (not pictured) at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
It seems very likely that a Burnett return to Pittsburgh won’t be as amazing as the first time around. Sure getting back together with a player as important to the Bucs return to prominence seems very cool. It’s something that I would welcome, but it would be stunning to me from a business standpoint knowing the Burnett injury that will require surgery this offseason. Burnett just can’t have enough impact and don’t kid yourself, the Pirates need an impact arm to inject into their rotation.
Jul 6, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) tips his cap to the crowd before pitching against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The A.J. Burnett legacy in Pittsburgh was great. Let’s leave it at that.
In the meantime I am praying that the GM-less Padres saw this Burnett smokescreen and gave Neal Huntington a call about Ian Kennedy. “Heh Neal, we just traded Headley to the Yankees, and sure would like to get Kennedy out of here before he gets a third degree burn from the firesale.”
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