Pirates still waiting to hear from A.J. Burnett

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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.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.