Sep 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) pitches during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
A.J Burnett is back in Pittsburgh after agreeing to a one-year $8.5 million deal with the Pirates Friday.
This deal means many different things to the team and fans, but what it does first and foremost is shapes up a starting pitching staff that desperately needed depth added during this offseason. Burnett will likely be slotted right behind Gerritt Cole in the no. 2 spot and that will push Vance Worely, Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton to three,four and five in the rotation. Moving that trio will place them exactly where they should be in the rotation and allow the Pirates to become creative in other areas The Pirates can use this as a way to focus on getting a middle reliever and possibly still try to trade one of their three catchers and someone else for a more established player.
Burnett is coming off a less-than-stellar 2014 campaign with the Philadelphia Phillies, but is just two years removed from a terrific 2013 season with the Pirates. The righty obviously enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh because he took $4.25 million less to leave Philly and come back. Burnett quickly became a fan favorite with the team because of his attitude and talent. He will definitely act as leader to a staff that is very young. Burnett has plenty of experience under his belt and the entire group should hear any advice he can offer with both ears. He has faced the best and worst situations in his career and has battled through it all to become a well-respected player.
Burnett has also traditionally been an innings-eater who has an ability to last longer than he should when he does not have his “A” stuff. Burnett will help the bullpen and therefore help the team as the season progresses. A few innings less here or there for relievers could be critical during the playoff run in September.
The signing of Burnett and recent trade for Francisco Cervelli also shows the rest of the National League management is not content sitting and waiting to see what other teams will do. This proactive approach should force the hand of division rivals quicker than they probably thought.
Inking Burnett could turn out to be the deal that pushes the Pirates to the next step in the N.L. next season.