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Veteran pitcher Burnett agrees to contract with Philadelphia

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Timeline of A.J. Burnett's Pirates tenure

Feb. 20 The Yankees trade A.J. Burnett to the Pirates for minor leaguers Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones. The Yankees agree to pay $20M of the $33M left on Burnett's contract for 2012 and '13.

March 1 During a bunting drill, Burnett fractures a bone around his right eye. He has surgery two days later.

April 21 In his Pirates debut, Burnett works seven innings, gives up three hits and strikes out seven in a 2-0 victory against the Cardinals.

June 28 Burnett beats the Phillies to become the first Pirates pitcher to notch eight straight wins since Dock Ellis in 1974.

July 31 Burnett comes within four outs of recording his second career no-hitter. Cubs rookie Adrian Cardenas broke up Burnett's bid with a clean, pinch-hit single with two outs in the eighth inning.

Aug. 16 Hanley Ramirez admires his two-run homer in the fourth inning, gesturing toward Burnett as he rounds the bases. When Ramirez strikes out in his next at-bat, Burnett yells at him to “Sit the (expletive) down!”

March 27 During an interview, Burnett tells the Tribune-Review he would only want to play for the Pirates if he doesn't retire.

April 1 Burnett ties the franchise Opening Day record by amassing 10 strikeouts in a 3-1 loss against the Cubs.

April 17 Burnett holds the Cardinals hitless for the first 62⁄3 innings of a 5-0 victory.

June 13 After tearing a calf muscle while running in the outfield, Burnett goes on the 15-day disabled list. He returns to action July 7.

July 25 In the midst of a bases-loaded jam, Burnett motions for relievers to stop warming up. That draws the ire of manager Clint Hurdle, who dressed down Burnett.

Sept. 11 After a two-run single ticks off Clint Barmes' glove, Burnett shouts angrily at the shortstop. They exchange words in the dugout but quickly patch things up. Burnett later says he was unhappy with the defensive shifts, not with Barmes' play.

Sept. 27 With six whiffs against the Reds, Burnett ends the regular season with 209 strikeouts, a club record for a right-handed pitcher.

Oct. 3 In his only postseason outing, Burnett gives up seven runs in two innings in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Cardinals. He yields six hits and four walks and does not strike out a batter. When the Pirates push the series to a decisive Game 5, Hurdle chooses rookie Gerrit Cole instead of Burnett as the starter.

Oct. 21 During a radio interview, Burnett reiterates he is considering retirement. It's the last time he speaks to the media during the offseason.

Jan. 28 A source tells the Tribune-Review that Burnett has decided to pitch in 2014 but will consider offers from other teams.

Feb. 12 Agrees to terms with Phillies.

July 4 The Pirates' first scheduled game with Phillies, and it's at PNC Park.

Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 12:42 p.m.
 

Pirates pitchers and catchers hold their first workout Thursday in Bradenton, Fla., and the Pirates confirmed Wednesday that A.J. Burnett will not be among the group.

The Burnett offseason saga and his tenure as a Pirate drew to a close Wednesday as the veteran right-hander reached an agreement with the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal is for one year and $16 million, according to multiple reports.

A source familiar with the situation told the Tribune-Review that the Pirates offered Burnett a one-year, $12 million deal.

In two years with the Pirates, Burnett logged 393 innings, struck out 389 batters and last year helped the club to a 94-win season and its first playoff berth in 21 years.

Burnett said last year his preference was to play for the Pirates in 2014 or retire. But after mulling retirement, Burnett decided last month to return to pitch, and he also elected to take his services to the open market where top-of-the rotation pitchers can earn north of $20 million per season. Burnett's preference was to pitch near his Monkton, Md., offseason home, and he also was believed to prefer pitching in the National League, where he resurrected his career after the Pirates acquired him in a February 2012 trade with the New York Yankees.

“He informed us it was family-based,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said of Burnett's decision. “The player made a decision to be closer to home. I was told he really loved his time here. It was a really hard decision for him.”

Huntington said the Pirates wanted to retain Burnett.

“A.J. would have had the biggest single impact of any move we could have made this offseason,” he said.

The Pirates declined to extend a one-year qualifying offer of $14.1 million in November, which would have awarded the club draft-pick compensation had Burnett signed elsewhere. It also would have also likely depressed his market.

“Teams that offer qualifying offers either feel very strongly that the player is going to get a multiyear deal elsewhere that incentivizes them to decline the qualifying offer, or they have complete comfort with that player returning on the fourteen-plus-million qualifying offer,” Huntington said. “In both scenarios, the answer was ‘no' for us.

“From a value standpoint, you can argue that $14 million should have been a no-brainer, and we understand that. But the reality is in 10 to 15 markets, a qualifying offer, if accepted, becomes a large chunk of payroll and something — right or wrong — we were not comfortable in doing at that time.

“It's always easy to look in hindsight. If he'd accepted the offer, it would have had a significant impact on what we could have done. ... It would have affected our approach on the first-base market, the right-field market and bullpen market. If we had a crystal ball and seen this is the way it would play out, maybe things are different.”

Huntington said he was not surprised Burnett tested the market. “We never assumed it was Pittsburgh or nothing,” Huntington said.

Burnett earned $16.5 million last season in the final year of his contract, although the Yankees paid $8 million of his salary. Burnett went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA last season, giving the Pirates 191 innings.

The signing means free agent acquisition Edinson Volquez is perhaps the favorite to replace Burnett in the starting rotation.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he spoke with Burnett on Wednesday and thanked him for his contributions over the last two seasons.

“I look it not as a challenge but as an opportunity,” Hurdle said of replacing Burnett. “I believe we having pitching depth.”

Burnett missed 24 games while on the disabled list with a strained calf, and his risk of injury increases with age. Still, according to wins above replacement, Burnett's 2013 performance was worth $20 million.

Investing in a 37-year-old pitcher is risky, but Burnett has displayed few signs of aging. He led the NL in groundball rate and strikeout rate last season. But he also was helped by a spacious PNC Park, the Pirates' defensive shifts and catcher Russell Martin's game-calling and pitch-framing abilities.

“We would have loved to have him back,” Huntington said. “(But) the core of our production is back. the core of our team is on the young side of the aging curve, meaning for the most part we should get better.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

 

 

 
 


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