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Don’t Blame A.J. Burnett for Leaving the Pittsburgh Pirates

February 12th, 2014 at 4:42 PM
By Allan Smith

The saga is finally over. On Wednesday, A.J. Burnett officially became a former Pittsburgh Pirates' pitcher when he signed a one-year deal worth $16 million with the cross state rival Philadelphia Phillies. Burnett had said back in October that he would either pitch for the Pirates or retire for the 2014 season, but don't hold it against Burnett for going back on his word. Hold it against the team that messed up this situation from the onset of the offseason.

First, Burnett made that comment before the Pirates made the decision to not offer the right hander a qualifying offer. Had the Pirates done so, Burnett would have had the option of accepting a one-year, $14.1 million deal or facing free agency with draft pick compensation attached to his name. Had a team been required to surrender a first-round pick for Burnett, the market would never have materialized. With players such as outfielder Nelson Cruz and first baseman Kendrys Morales still toiling on the free agent market because of the first-round pick, Burnett would have been wise to accept the offer instead of test the market. This is exactly what the Pirates were afraid of. They didn't want to pay one player more than $14 million. However, they would've been more than able to do so. The team signed Edinson Volquez to a one-year deal worth $5 million to take Burnett's spot in the rotation, while still having money set aside for a first baseman, money they have yet to spend.

'A.J. Burnett' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license:

At $14.1 million, the Pirates would've still gotten Burnett at a discount. The pitcher was able to secure $16 million in a bidding war that likely consisted of no more than two or three teams. It's not completely out of the realm of possibility that the Phillies were only bidding against themselves.

In addition, the Phillies hold the 7th pick in June's amateur draft, a protected pick they wouldn't have had to relinquish if they signed a Burnett that was qualified and declined the offer, but the Pirates still would have received a compensation pick before the second round.

Due to their stinginess as an organization, the Pirates made Burnett feel disrespected by not offering a qualifying deal and feeling overconfident that he would be willing to take roughly half of what he ended up signing with the Phillies for. Instead of walking away from the situation with Burnett in the fold, or a compensatory draft pick, the Pirates walk away with a $5 million contract for the past season's league leader in earned runs, Edinson Volquez, and absolutely nothing in return for the loss of Burnett.

Burnett will return to Pittsburgh with the Phillies from July 4-6, and, hopefully, fans will cheer Burnett for his two seasons of excellent work during the team's historic turnaround rather than boo the man for leaving after being disrespected by the Pirates front office.

The "best management team in sports" may want to reconsider how they conduct themselves during the offseason after this debacle.

Tags: A.J. Burnett, Baseball, MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Pirates

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