SOUTH HILLS – On MLB Network this morning, national reporter Ken Rosenthal likened the A.J. Burnett decision to a white plume of smoke rising from the most holy of chimneys in the Vatican.
The twist is that’s just the first signal. Now we’re waiting on a second.
Rosenthal confirmed our report yesterday that Burnett will return in 2014 but will likely test the free agent market. Rosenthal listed Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Toronto as possible suitors. The Nationals are also located near his home of Monkton, Md., which is about 25 miles north of Baltimore. Some other reports have linked Rangers and Dodgers to Burnett, but Rosenthal and other believe Burnett will not stray far from the East Coast.
After all, part of the reason it took Burnett nearly four months to make this decision is because he was wrestling with how much time he wanted to spend away from his wife and two young sons. I’m told he made this decision with his family’s stamp of approval. This was not about waiting for the Tanaka domino to fall and set the market.
The Pirates still seem to operating on the assumption that it’s either Pittsburgh or bust for Burnett.
Said Pirates GM Neal Huntington to MLB.com:
“I can’t say he has not (considered the open market). I’m not aware of every discussion there might have been,” Huntington said. “All I can say is he has been very public with his intent to pitch in Pittsburgh or not pitch at all. Do I blindly put faith in that? No. But he’s been very open with us, and continues to be very open.”
There is still a chance Burnett returns to Pittsburgh. He has to have a comfort level at PNC Park, having turned around his career there and I bet part of him is leery to return to the AL East. Moreover, Burnett has made $160 million in his playing career so perhaps comfort and a chance to contend will persuade him to pitch at a discount.
But, again, players rarely accept discounts and that’s what it seems the Pirates are counting on unless they have a change of heart.
Rosenthal reported the Orioles have $17 million remaining to spend. The Baltimore Sun reports Burnett is atop their wishlist. The Phillies are sitting on a pile of cash from a new TV deal and are built to try to win now with their advancing age and desperately need another arm. Also, Phillies ace Cliff Lee is also represented by Burnett’s agent. The Nationals could also have interest. The Indians were willing to place the qualifying offer on free agent Ubaldo Jiminez.
In short there’s going to be a healthy market for Burnett, particularly since there is no draft-compensation attached to him. Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs writes that Burnett is now the top free agent pitcher available. MLB Network projected his single-season value at $22 million for 2014.
The saga continues.
KEITH LAW’S TOP 100
The third top 100 list in a week was unveiled over at ESPN.com (premium content). Keith Law, like Baseball Propsectus, ranked seven Pirates among his top 100:
13. Gregory Polanco
20. Tyler Glasnow
27. Jameson Taillon
35. Austin Meadows
73. Nick Kingham
74. Alen Hanson
97. Josh Bell
Law has pushed Glasnow aggressively ahead of Taillon. He also has Hanson in and Reese McGuire out, which is the lone departure from the BP list.