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.