Yesterday, Pirates starter A.J. Burnett told the media that he is still mulling retirement, then went out and struck out 12 Reds in a seven-inning performance that put the Pirates back in a tie for the NL Wild Card.
Today, via Rob Biertempfel on Twitter, Pirates GM Neal Huntington said that if Burnett isn’t retiring, he will do “everything in our power” to bring Burnett back for the 2014 season. Burnett turns 37 on January 3 and will have wrapped up a five-year, $82.5 million contract originally given to him by the Yankees. A one-year deal would likely rival the average annual value of his last contract ($16.5 million).
Burnett has been a big reason why the Pirates ended their winning season drought as he currently has a 3.39 ERA with a league-leading and career-high K/9 at exactly 10 in 183 innings.
Biertempfel also notes that Burnett would line up second behind Francisco Liriano in the team’s playoff rotation.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.