Free agent right-hander A.J. Burnett has said publicly and privately that he will either pitch for the Pirates in 2014 or retire from baseball for good. The Bucs want him back and are prepared to commit a significant portion of their budget to the cause, but the 36-year-old has not made an official decision about his future and so the cost-conscious Pittsburgh front office is having to set aside other potential offseason moves. It’s not a great situation.
“We’re continuing to try to be respectful of the process,” general manager Neal Huntington told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “This is a huge decision for A.J. I can’t imagine there’s anything worse for an athlete to hang it up a year too early. He’s earned the right to take his time … but we will come to the point where A.J. will have to make a decision or we will have to make a decision.”
Burnett posted an impressive 3.30 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 30 starts this past season for the Pirates, striking out 209 batters in 191 innings. Losing that type of impact would obviously be detrimental to the club’s chances of again challenging for the National League Central crown.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will opt out of his contract shortly after the World Series concludes. Cespedes, who earned $17.5 million for the 2016 season, has two years and $47.5 million remaining on his deal which includes an opt-out clause.
That Cespedes plans to opt out isn’t surprising as he’s almost certain to get a better contract entering a weak free agent market. He hit a terrific .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs and 86 RBI in 543 plate appearances for the Mets this past season.
It remains to be seen how the Mets will deal with potentially losing Cespedes. They can pick up a $13 million club option for Jay Bruce, but he performed terribly after joining the Mets in a trade from the Reds. The Mets could also go after free agents Jose Bautista or Mark Trumbo. Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto will handle the other two outfield positions.
Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that former Red Sox DH David Ortiz and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant won the 2016 Hank Aaron Award in their respective leagues.
Ortiz, 40, flourished in his final season, batting .315/.401/.620 with 38 home runs and 127 RBI in 626 plate appearances during the regular season. His .620 slugging percentage, 1.021 OPS, and 48 doubles led the majors while his 127 RBI led the American League. Ortiz also won the Hank Aaron Award back in 2005.
Bryant, 24, is the likely winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award as well. He hit .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI over 699 plate appearances. He also led the league by scoring 121 runs. Bryant is the first Cub to win the Hank Aaron Award since Aramis Ramirez in 2008.
Last year’s winners in the AL and NL, respectively, were Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper.