In today’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo writes that it’s “a Baltimore-Philadelphia-Pittsburgh runoff” for the services of free agent starter A.J. Burnett.
Burnett recently announced his intent to come back for one more season, and initially drew the interest of more than a handful of teams. However, he said he prefers to stay close to his home in Maryland, knocking out a good portion of potential suitors. Now, it’s apparently up to the Orioles, Phillies, and Pirates.
Burnett, of course, has a good deal of familiarity with the Pirates, as it was with them that he resuscitated his career after an unflattering three-year stint with the Yankees. The Pirates have famously adopted defensive shifts, which was one reason why Burnett’s numbers improved. Also, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune notes, Burnett ditched his four-seamer in favor of the two-seamer after coming to Pittsburgh.
It’s tough to say if Burnett would experience any drop-off with a change of scenery. It doesn’t hurt that the Pirates might also give him his best chance of finishing his playing career with a championship.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”