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Everyday Gaby? Wandy throws. One last comment on Burnett


SOUTH HILLS – If you had Gaby Sanchez as the first name to be pulled in the he’s-reported-to-spring-training-in-the-best-shape-of-his-life pool, congratulations, you’re a winner.

Rob Biertempfel reports from Bradenton that Sanchez has toned up and lost 20 pounds, motivated by the opportunity to seize more playing time at first base.


“I’ve always felt I could take first base and be perfect there,” Sanchez said. “What (management) does is out of my hands. All I can do is work hard, train hard and show, ‘Hey, I am here. I definitely can help the team.’ ”


Sanchez’s career splits suggest he’s a platoon player no matter how great of shape he is in. He’s a lefty masher – career .300/.399/.498 slash line – and below league average for the position against right-handed pitching: .242/.313/.387.


Still, GM Neal Huntington suggested at the winter meetings that Sanchez could emerge as an every day first baseman and noted he had more success against right-handed pitching earlier in his career — which is true but Sanchez has never been better than league average in a single season.


On Thursday, Huntington said Sanchez remains a contender for an everyday job.


“Guys get to the point where they recognize there’s a big opportunity for them,” Huntington said. “Gaby’s got the opportunity to become a regular first baseman again.”
On paper, Sanchez is screaming for a platoon partner. But there are a couple numbers that make me wonder if there is some upside for him against right-handed pitching.


For one, Sanchez has controlled the strike zone well against RHP for his career posting an above-average walk rate (9.0 percent) and a below league-average K rate (16.5 percent). For his career he appears to be somewhat unlucky from the right side. His career BABIP against lefties is .320. BABIP against righties? .268. Seems like a strange split. Now, maybe that is explained by producing consistently weaker contact against RHP. But maybe part of it is poor luck the Pirates are hoping reverses itself.


The simple debate comes down to this:


Door No. 1: Do you throw prospects, or dollars, or both, at a left-handed bat? (We’re not really sure what the asks are but Justin Wilson‘s name had been rumored. Kendrys Morales is made somewhat redundant as a switch-hitter who is worse against LHP than Sanchez and will costs dollars and the 25th overall pick)


Door No. 2: Do you first try an internal platoon partner in Andrew Lambo or Chris McGuiness?  (Lambo is going to strike out a lot. McGuiness is a lottery ticket).


Door No. 3: Or do stick with Sanchez and hope for some better luck against right-handed pitching?


It’s perhaps the most interesting question to play out this spring along with Wandy Rodriguez‘s health and the No. 5 spot in the rotation?



Speaking or Rodriguez, he threw a bullpen today and told reporters afterward he feels good. He’ll throw again Monday. Rodriguez is a wild card. He could be a mid-rotation, 200-inning contributor and go a long way toward replacing Burnett — or he might be limited by left elbow tendonitis. We need to see him in game action because he threw about 57 bullpens after his initial injury last year before shutting it down.



From a Baseball Prospectus chat:

mmcd (ottawa): Drastic falloff in store for A.J. Burnett? Leave Pittsburgh where you’re content and pitching supurbly with a dynamic young team that plays great defence behind you for basically, the opposite in Philly. Yeah, I get that.

R.J. Anderson: Pride can be an ugly thing. I’m not sure if he’ll have a drastic falloff, but his raw numbers will probably take a few steps back.


– TS



  1. Steve D says:

    If Gaby hits RHP at league average (hope he does) I would take that. Lets hope his luck turns around some. Im pulling for this guy, he’s an underdog and i like those types.

  2. The Gunner says:

    I echo your thoughts about Gaby. He appears to be a nice guy with a good attitude. Let’s hope he blossoms in 2014.

  3. BostonsCommon says:

    I don’t think anyone is expecting Gaby to all of the sudden hit RHP at a league average clip. This is a guy with a career line of .242/.313/.387/.700 vs RHP in 1,400 PA… coming off a season of .204/.304/.315/.619. He hasn’t even been respectable against RHP since 2011. NH can say whatever he wants to the media, but I doubt he’s counting on Gaby for 650 PA.

    Same thing with regard to Wandy. No one in the organization is expecting him to throw 200 innings this season. In fact, I don’t think they’re counting on him for anything. They’ve got a solid front four, and a number of guys looking to provide innings in the No. 5 spot. If they come from Wandy, then yes, that is awesome and the rotation will benefit. But I bet that’s gravy in their eyes.

  4. Ghost says:

    When was it that the Pirates offered A.J. the $12 mil.? If it was only put on the table well after A.J. had decided to move on from the Pirates, then no, I wouldn’t say A.J. was putting pride before his own best interests. If the Pirates told him early on, “A.J., we can’t go $14.1 but we are willing to go as high as $12 and want you back,” then that’s another story. To me, the timing of that offer makes a significant difference.

  5. NMR says:

    Gaby Sanchez is Option #1 as the everyday first baseman.

    Before hamstring and knee injuries in late 2011, Gaby Sanchez produced league average results against RHP over 982 of his 1415 total attempts against them throughout his career. Yes, this is a sample size conversation.

    To put some context on what 433 PA looks like, James Loney was 30% BELOW league average over his 465 PA 2012 season. Then last year happened. Loney’s BABIP in 2012 was 39 point below career average. Gaby’s BABIP against RHP from ’12-’13 was 34 points below his career average, 49 points below his average from ’10-’11.

    Everybody always says the Pirates should be more like the Rays. History would tell us Gaby Sanchez is exactly the type of player the Rays would take a chance on.

  6. LJ says:

    Agreed. If the Pirates didn’t come around to making the $12M offer until a few weeks ago, it could have been a case of “too little, too late.” I read a report that he was “insulted” by their initial 8.5M offer, as well he should have been. That might have poisoned the well. I think the Pirates messed this one up.

  7. NMR says:

    So in that case you agree? AJ did let his pride get in the way?

  8. Denis Cunningham says:

    It’s funny how Pirate fans have no confidence in Gabby Sanchez–but give Neil Walker a pass–even going as far as saying he should hit lefty exclusively….sounds like $5.75 million for a platoon second baseman to me! But he’s a native son from the North Hills–so it’s OK I guess.

  9. Ghost says:

    I don’t know what actually transpired (and what didn’t), but along with the possible timing of the offer(s), some of us have inferred that the Pirates really didn’t want — or at least, expect — A.J. back. I think Huntington even said something along the lines of the latter. Just speaking for myself now, but if it seems to me like a window has closed and that it’s time to ‘move on,’ then I usually go with that. Towards the end, the Pirates may well have appealed in earnest for A.J. to reconsider. But that ship had probably sailed.

    The education of Neal Huntington continues. I accept his explanation of what he was attempting to do this winter: prioritize landing James Loney and/or Josh Johnson. Fact is, he whiffed on all three — Loney, Johnson and A.J.
    I do believe Huntington’s patient, calculating approach will continue to serve him well more often than not, however.

  10. Andrew says:

    I was just looking at some numbers, if you regress Gaby’s splits, he projects to be a .309 wOBA hitter (his career average) against RHP. In comparison league average hitters had .318 wOBA overall, first basemen .333 wOBA. If the Pirates can get someone (Lambo, Moreland, Davis) to produce at .333 wOBA over 450 PAs that is worth about 8.5 runs. Just shy of a win.

    I honestly think expecting Sanchez to even hit at the .309 number is a stretch, over the last two years Sanchez has seen 69 change ups from RHPs, his average against .000. I think his BABIP is lower vs RHP because he hit a large amount of in-field fly balls, 16.8%, in the last two seasons.

    As NMR stated I the Pirates can be the Rays and hope there is some ability to be teased out, or go the As route and find a good platoon partner.

  11. Here is what works against Gaby Sanchez as a full time 1B. Not only does he have a poor track record against right handers, but he is also a terrible fit for PNC Park. Park factors indicate it is the hardest place for right handed hitters to find success. And it kills fly ball hitters with slightly better than average power the most. And that pretty much sums up Sanchez as a hitter. This would be a good time to mention Gaby has only gone yard once at PNC park since joining the Pirates.

  12. NMR says:

    Help me out, buddy. Does that 8.5 run value represent the DIFFERENCE between a .309 wOBA and a .333 wOBA? Or just the SUM of runs created from a .333 wOBA?

    And fwiw, a platoon partner is absolutely the way to go…but it is far from clear whether or not that player actually exists.

  13. NMR says:

    BTW, great catch on the IFH%. Bad sign, for sure.

  14. PetroSteel says:

    Regardless of when the offer came in (unless it was after he accepted the Philly offer), it was still a respectable offer that he could have saied yes to.

    I have no doubt and inside information that the Pirates offered him around 8.5M early on. I think it was around the time they were chasing other high priced options for 1B. I understand that he might have been insulted. I think he had to understand that more money became available and that’s when they offered 12M. The question is only when was the offer extended (before or after he accepted the Philly offer)

    I was hoping he would sign here. I’m shocked that its Philly. I think we learned a lot about AJ Burnett if that offer of 12M came in early enough for him to say yes and he said no for 4M more to go to Philly. If this is/was his first big contract opportunity that I say chase the money…But we all know that it isn’t.

  15. Andrew says:

    Yes sorry, the 8.5 runs, is the difference between the .309 and .333, so that .024 gap over 450 PAs, putting numbers is post in succinct way is always difficult.

    I only checked that IFFB% because I remember a lot Sanchez’s ABs ending that way, but no one beats Barajas, I do not recall a player frequently hitting a ball so high but the ball going nowhere.

  16. NMR says:

    Interesting. Thank you very much. I wouldn’t have guessed that difference would be worth a win.

    Where do you stand on the roster construction aspect? You brought up the A’s platoons, but one thing I love about them is their guys are flexible. Barton/Freiman, whoever the choose to be the righty half at first base, is their only platoon partner with strictly one position.

    I feel like if you’re going to spend two roster spots on one and ONLY one pisition, both guys better be able to mash.

  17. The difference is the Pirates are going to see RH starters in about 130 games. If Walker struggled against righties the way Sanchez does he would be a bench player too.

  18. Andrew says:

    I agree if you have two guys who can only play first they better be able to hit, Garret Jones and Sanchez platoon was a great idea, Jones career wOBA versus RHP .355, which makes up for his defensive ineptitude. Too bad Jones got expensive and his performance dropped off.

    I like what Oakland does because it gives them depth, and when you cannot stack stars at each position, having versatile guys can make up for that. There has been a conscience effort to find flawed players then use them in spots to minimize their flaws, but it’s a fine line between AAAA player and serviceable utility in-fielder. Josh Harrison is almost that type of player, if he could continue to hit LHPing well and learn how to steal a base, two big ifs.

  19. Andrew says:

    One criticism about platoon I hate, is that late in the game the opponents can just mix and match lefty, righty to neutralize the lineup. I would much prefer to have the best lineup to face the day’s starter then worry about a situation that might not arise.

  20. The Gunner says:


    It is pretty evident the Pirates did not want AJ back. The tantrum he threw over Game 5 combined with his threat to not travel with the team to St. Louis basically ended his Pirate career.

  21. PetroSteel says:

    Gunner, 12M offer tells me they wanted him back.

  22. Mark says:

    Agree completely

  23. Chief says:

    AJ- money?- we have heard a lot about AJ leaving. I am sure money was a major factor . However he left a great situation with a young team. I truely believe he left because he is still pissed come started for him in game 5 in St Louis. He wanted redemption after his first start, never got it and fretted all offseason then left for Philly. Nobody talked about that.

  24. LeeFoo says:

    Steve D and Jim…I am with you both.

  25. LeeFoo says:

    Regarding Gaby vs RHPs…is it me, or does he seem to get jammed more as a RHB?

  26. chethejet1 says:

    Buccos acting in good faith offer to AJ for 12 million. He knew he could get more without a QQ so it came down to Balt or Philly. But with the stack of RH pitching in the system, they need to address 1st base. AJ wanted to set the conditions which is his thinking, but not NH thinking.

  27. NorthPirateFan says:

    I think I’ve seen this movie before and I know how it ends. Who can name the last MLB player they heard a story about his attempts to increase his strength, shed pounds of fat and replace it with muscle and then had a positive outcome? Indeed I can recall numerous instance in the past of players reporting to camp as Sanchez is supposed to have then having some of their worse results on the field and I’ve often thought that baseball players who radically change their condition like this aren’t doing themselves any favor.

    I’m going to go on record now and say if these are accurate reports of Sanchez’s condition, and I have no reason to doubt they are, not only will he not get more playing time but his performance against LHP with drop below his career norms and he’ll have one of his worst seasons at the plate.

  28. Denis Cunningham says:

    Garrett Jones was given every chance and then some to prove his salt–why all the hate for Gabby? He was hurt when he got here; last season he under-performed. Would you rather lard-ass poor defender/good hitter like Kendrys Morales be signed to take Gabby’s spot? That’s loads of lettuce–$–and a lost draft pick.

  29. Danny Murtaugh says:

    Denis is right. What’s the rush to find a left-handed hitting first baseman? Sure, if a great candidate were available at a reasonable price, NH should snap him up, but that obviously is not the case. The 2013 Pirates won 58% of their games against right-handed starters and against left-handed starters. Does anyone seriously think that the combination of Jones and Morneau was critical to the Pirates’ success against righties? Of course not. So long as Alvarez and Walker are healthy and the Bucs’ right-handed hitters handle righties as they have in the past, the Pirates should be fine against righties. (And remember that the right-fielder will also be a lefty, Snider, Decker, Polanco, or a player who hits righties reasonably well, Tabata.)

    So why not give Sanchez, Lambo and McGuiness a chance to win the job? As the season unfolds, other options will surely emerge. But before giving up any serious talent or taking a bad contract, NH is wise to give the players he has a fair chance to win the job. He’s got 6 months to find a solution if they aren’t up to it.

  30. cmat0829 says:

    The AJ thing is really very very simple. In October, the Pirates did NOT prioritize wanting AJ back for 2014. Part of it may have been doubts he would pitch again, but regardless, they wanted to see what their available money would get elsewhere. In January, the Pirates DID INDEED want AJ back and offered $12M to try to get that done.

    AJ accepted $4M more to pitch for a team that is not as good defensively as the Pirates… in a ballpark decidedly worse for pitchers.. but arguably “closer to home” for AJ. Travis is right on the money. This is about money, and PRIDE, for AJ. Once the Pirates didn’t fall all over themselves in October to beg him to come back…and to give him most of their available FA $$s, his ‘pride’ would not let him come back to the Pirates.

    Best wishes to him… can’t argue any time a player takes more $$ because WE ALL WOULD DO THE SAME THING.. . I just don’t have to listen to his BS that it was ‘all about family’ and ‘being close to home’. It always was about pride and $$, nothing more and nothing less. I would respect players much more if they would just be honest. Same for the front office…

  31. cmat0829 says:

    Good thoughts on Gaby … IF there were an everyday 1B available…and All-Star type, then yes, you empty the chamber and go get him.. There is not.

    IF there were a very good LH platoon player, one that you were confident could put up above league average #s vs RHP and play good defense, you go get him. Not sure there really is one of those either.

    So you are left with some reasonable names that can be had, that may indeed do an average job vs RHPs, Smoak, Moreland, perhaps Lind… question is simple… is it worth giving up what it takes to trade for them… is the differential in what they would do big enough to justify the cost (and by cost I’m talking prospects not $$s)….

    To me, I’m pretty close to declaring I’d rather go with Gaby and Lambo… perhaps not a pure platoon but seeing if Gaby can get something going vs certain RHPs and seeing what Lambo can do… at least through May.

  32. Denis Cunningham says:

    Morneau was offensively underwhelming in his stint with the Pirates, and I daresay the Buccos know something that the Rockies do not–or refuse to recognize. We will know soon enough–especially if he only hits say 15 dingers next season–humidor or not!

  33. Jim S. says:

    I think an argument can certainly be made both ways on whether Gaby can hit RHP well enough now to be an everyday option. I side with the folks who think he needs to platoon, but NMR does make a decent case about sample size maybe being the culprit the last 2 years.

    To me, though, Travis hit the nail on the head regarding his .268 BABIP vs. RHP. I just don’t think he squares them up well often enough these days. Maybe the .268 is just bad luck, but I don’t think so. I am leery of the eye test, but if push came to shove I would say my eyes have told me the last 2 years that he has earned every bit of his low batting average and slugging % vs. RHP.

    As far as Neal now saying they think Gaby can play everyday, well what is he supposed to say? Their only other half way promising option besides Gaby right now is hoping Lambo can adjust to MLB pitching in a big hurry. So, I think, barring a trade for a lefty hitting 1b, Lambo gets first shot at the ABs vs. RHP and Gaby is a clear Plan B. I, personally, would like nothing more than for Lambo to prove he can get the job done. And, if that doesn’t work, obviously I want Gaby to get it done. Both options COULD work well enough. I don’t think either WILL work well enough, though. And, if I were GM (and you should all be thankful I’m not btw) I would not be content going into the season with those 2 as my 650 ABs.

    I read an interesting quote from Neal a week or so ago where he basically said that just because you aren’t hearing about a move from him doesn’t mean nothing is close to happening. He tries to do things in a stealth manner. He said he likes to surprise people. So, I am still very hopeful that he is trying to pry away a lefty hitting 1b (we all know the likely suspects) for a decent price. We’ll see, but I think he gets it done still. Surprise us, Neal!

    On a completely unrelated note, people can talk about AJ being the leader of the team last year, blah, blah, blah. Russell Martin is the clear leader of this team, and he made it very clear this week that he has no intention of letting this team go into this season feeling like it won’t contend with anyone. I assume you have all seen his quotes. I thought they were just awesome. He was respectful of AJ and all that he had done, but he was clear that this team still has plenty of pitching. He talked about so-called “experts” not picking the Bucs, and said he considers himself an “expert” who does think they will contend. I know it is just words, but that guy is awesome. Add another year to his contract, Neal! Please!!

  34. Jim S. says:

    That’s a fair assessment of his off-season actions, Ghost. I believe Neal had a plan, but it started to unravel when they lost Johnson, then moreso with Loney. Maybe the original plan was to replace AJ with Josh Johnson, and that ticked AJ off as well. Who knows? I think AJ’s family situation plus a bit of hurt feelings were part of his ultimate decision. AJ is a very prideful guy, as we know.

  35. NMR says:

    Still have absolutely no idea why Andrew Lambo deserves the first, and exclusive, shot at hitting RHP.

    Gaby is the far superior defender, which as got to start meaning something.

    All the shifts in the world aren’t gonna get it done for in infield consisting of Alvarez, Mercer, and Lambo.

  36. Jim S. says:

    Who are all these fans that think that way, Denis? Everyone I read on this and DK’s blog seems to be pretty realistic that Walker does not hit lefties well. Fortunately for Walker, RHP started 80% of the games vs. the Bucs last year and may do that again this year. It’s the reverse for Gaby.

    But, you are not actually saying you think Gaby is as good a player as Walker, are you? Walker hits better and plays a more important defensive postion. They should probably both be platoon players, but Walker should get 80% of the season ABs in his platoon while Gaby should probably get 20%.

    Frankly, as someone who no longer lives in Pittsburgh, I actually think Walker gets more criticism for being from Pittsburgh, as though that is automatically bad for some reason, than from people who support him as a hometown kid.

  37. NMR says:

    Oh yeah, huge pet peeve of mine as well, Andrew.

    Beane and Friedman are both far better at constructing rosters at this point, IMO. I love what they do to accumulate defensively versatile players that can be mixed and matched into platoons. Josh Harrison, like you point out, is about as close as we get. If he could only take a walk and learn to run the bases.

  38. Jim S. says:

    Exactly, Vigorish. Ditto for Walker when he turns around and bats righty.

  39. Jim S. says:

    I agree on Morneau, Denis. I hated that trade from the start. I think he has a chance to put up decent numbers in CO simply because everyone has a higher batting avg. in that cavernous OF. But, I’m glad we did not resign him.

  40. Jim S. says:

    Travis, I would like to hear your thoughts on some of the things Hurdle discussed this week regarding where the Bucs are now headed with OF shifts. I think it was Tim W. discussing it with him. He alluded to being able to shade Polanco into RC and still cover all the way to the line. The Pirates had much better than league average BABIP against on flyballs and liners last year, and that was obviously before Polanco.

    I think we have all drooled on the dream defensive OF of Marte, Cutch, Polanco. Have you addressed any of that with CH, NH, etc? What are your thoughts on that?

  41. Jim S. says:

    Well, we don’t actually know Lambo will not be a good 1b.

  42. Jim S. says:

    And, you are right that people (myself included) tend to overlook the importance of defense at 1b.

  43. Thundercrack says:

    the note about AJ reminds me of the lyrics of one my favorite George Jones songs.

    Now the race is on and here comes pride up the backstretch
    Heartaches are going to the inside
    My tears are holding back
    They’re trying not to fall
    My heart’s out of the running
    True love’s scratched for another’s sake
    The race is on and it looks like heartaches
    And the winner loses all

  44. NorthPirateFan says:

    There’s only one problem with this argument … earlier in his career Gabby Sanchez wasn’t playing in PNC Park.

    It’s tough enough for good right handed hitters who don’t have big platoon splits to produce at PNC due to its dimensions. Those who can are the elite guys like McCutchen who has the combination of outstanding plate discipline and real home run power that can clear that deep left center field notch, and that’s not Sanchez at any point in his career. If Sanchez were playing his home games in some other park I might mark up his chances of improving against RHP, but he’s not and I think it’s a tremendous long shot for him to do so here.

    At the end of the day I think the Pirates are going to find out that the most valuable full time first baseman for them is going to be a left handed hitter regardless of any split because of where they play and the preponderance of RHP pitching in any given year.

    Not only will the percentage of RHP pitchers any full time hitter face in a season be around 80% roughly half the games the hitter will face will be at home and the other half away. None of the stats I have access to are broken down so far as to show Sanchez’s performance against RHP at PNC but I’d love to see them and would hazard a guess they’re even worse than his performance against RHP overall.

    A left handed hitter with a moderate platoon deficiency might still be able to produce more at PNC than a similar hitter if the right handed variety.

  45. NorthPirateFan says:

    Indeed, most of the conversation about platoons including the one revolving around Sanchez fails to take into account the amount of pitching they’ll face in a typical season.

    All else being equal a left handed full time hitter with a platoon disadvantage against LHP is far less of a drag on the offense than a right handed hitter with a platoon disadvantage against RHP.

    It’s really a simple matter, do you want any guy playing 162 games to his best hitting in 80% of his plate appearance or in 20%?

  46. NorthPirateFan says:

    Actually I think the absolute best way to go for the Pirates is to find the best hitter from the left side of the they can and not worry about the relatively small problem of what he might do against LHP in roughly 20% of his plate appearances.

    The reasons I find the idea of Smoak so appealing are not only is he at the age where we can reasonably expect a step up in his game given his profile, moving from Safeco Field in the AL to PNC in the NL that I think he is a potential breakout candidate who produces well enough against RHP that his performance against LHP become inconsequential for the most part. Sure if you already have a player like Sanchez on your roster give him the at bats against LHP in 2014 but if you acquire a first baseman who can hit 35 home runs and draw 80 or more walks hitting from the left side do we really need to worry about platoons that much?

  47. pattonbb says:

    The Grateful Dead did a nice version of it too.

  48. LeeFoo says:

    I remember Jack Jones singing that on a Bob Hope show, but not George. (not saying George didn’t)

  49. LeeFoo says:

    Rosenthal on the AJ timeline saga

    Burnett said manager Clint Hurdle’s decision not to start him in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals had no bearing on his decision. He reiterated that he would have preferred to know in advance but said it did not influence his choice.

    Burnett said he didn’t give much thought to the lack of a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Pirates, which would have given the organization a compensatory draft pick when Burnett signed in Philadelphia.

    “I mean, all due respect, I said I’m going to be done or play for you guys,” he said. “In that regard, why would you, I guess?”


    Since NH didn’t have the funds to extend a QO (he wanted the money for Loney, J Johnson, etc), it then became a no brainer to not extend one. QO’s are turned down because clients want a multi-year contract. AJ didn’t seem to want one (I know he got a quasi-2nd year, but BOTH have to want it).

    AND, IF the QO had been turned down, I seriously doubt AJ would’ve signed with Philly, because of the draft pick loss (Philly’s was middle of the pack).

  50. Andrew says:

    Lee, nothing quasi-about it, the contract guarantees Burnett $22.5 million over two seasons, so all the off-season long consternation over the QO was for naught. No reasonable estimate values the 47th pick at $8 million dollars, especially for a team constructed to win now, however delusional that may be. If the Pirates were to sign Burnett they would have need in excess of $14.1 million.

  51. Andrew says:

    Agreed, no brainer, QO should have been extended, but I still think he would have ended up somewhere else, at $15-16 million for one year, that pick just drives down the total dollar amount Burnett would receive.

  52. Jim S. says:

    My last comment about AJ is that I have ended up where I started. I don’t think the Pirates were really in the picture at all. And, it is not for the reasons everyone has speculated on. It wasn’t hurt feelings or the Pirates cheapness, necessarily. It was all about family, as he said way back last summer. He could not commute to/from Pittsburgh after home games – pure and simple. I wasn’t sure he could do that from Philly, either, which was why I had initially thought they were out of the picture. But, as I read this weekend, he is probably a 1.5 hour commute to Citizen’s Bank Ballpark from his house, and this is very manageable 80x this year. I have a 1+ hr work commute in the Chicago area that often becomes 1:15 or more depending on traffic and weather, and I do it pretty easily.

    I think AJ had limited his options to Balt, Wash and Philly, and it appears Philly was the only team of that group who were really interested. I think he tried to tell himself that the Bucs were also an option, and he probably liked everything about coming back to the Bucs except the money initially offered and the location. Once the offer rose to $12 million, I bet that was enough money but location won out in the end for a guy that didn’t need the biggest offer.

    Never underestimate the power of a dad wanting to spend as much time as possible with his family. Ryan Dempster just voluntarily walked away from $13.25 million this year in order to be with his family full-time. Once these guys reach crazy wealth status, some of them shift into full-time dad mode. These guys truly are loving the life. If, as I expect, Philly does not contend this year, I expect AJ to retire after the season.

  53. LeeFoo says:

    Andrew….do you seriously think Philly would’ve paid AJ that much for one (maybe two years…if he reverts to his NY days, he is gone) AND surrender that high of a pick?

    I think not.

    If we had extended that QO, AJ would’ve either retired or we would be on the hook for it.

  54. LeeFoo says:

    Dempster walked away because he was hurt.

  55. Jim S. says:

    That’s not what I read yesterday. Everyone on the team and team management was stunned that he quit. Even if he was injured, the $13.25 million was guaranteed.

  56. Andrew says:

    I do not think Philly would have paid $22.5 million but they certainly would have paid $15 million, all the draft pick loss would do was likely removed that second year. Draft picks are valuable, but no team is valuing the 47th pick at $7-8 million, if a team values that slot at $7-8 million they are severely deluded in their ability to draft and project the future.

    I think the take away is that the Pirates cannot retain or sign the best free agents, even ones who severely limit their market.

  57. Jeff King says:

    I don’t begrudge AJ for getting what he could get, but c’mon. After seeing that the contract could approach $33M, can he not admit it was the money? Gee whiz, playing in Pittsburgh was just fine for him the past years wasn’t it. Do you think if the Pirates would have offered the same contract that he would have still signed with the Phils since it’s only a 90 minute drive to his home. Give me a break. This kind of stuff disgusts me. They assume the fans are idiots.

  58. Denis Cunningham says:

    I’m saying what I’m saying: Walker gets a pass, and Gabby’s the latest whipping boy. First base is supposed to be a boppers position–so I can understand why Gabby doesn’t measure up.

    Why do you think the Pirates haven’t fallen all over themselves–scrambling to sign Walker long term? It’s not because he’s head and shoulders better than Sanchez.

  59. Jeff King says:

    I think the thing with Walker is injuries, especially his back. He seems to be a very slow healer. And the thing I don’t like about Sanchez is his numbers basically have gone stagnant or declined over the past three years.

  60. 21sthebest says:

    Dempster cited his health in a pretty vague way and apparently told Farrell that it was physical and family issues.

  61. Denis Cunningham says:

    Of course you’re right about Walker not being right due to injuries the last few years…his most recent position switch to 2nd base is still potentially intoxicating…a 3rd baseman hitting .285 w/20 homers is no biggy–at least it shouldn’t be–but an above average glove man with these numbers at second base?–now that’s sweet. I hope he can put it all together this season. The Pirates need a monster year from Neal Walker if they are to challenge St Louis!

  62. RobertoForever says:

    what about Russell Martin? Grilli?

  63. RobertoForever says:


    Happy Presidents Day!

    When is your period in Bradenton this spring?

    On the 1b situation. Do you think that NH feels any pressure to make a move still since he was not successful with Johnson, Loney or AJ? I fear he might but I hope he doesn’t. If something good is reasonably there the sure, but I think we all have some amount of discomfort with the known options. Maybe its good we play more at home early and road more after JT and Polanco get here.

    Thanks for the great analysis and no spin thoughts. Much appreciated.

  64. The Gunner says:


    AJ is a good pitcher but, he sure does assume the fans are idiots as evidenced by his recent statements.

    About his contract with Philly, AJ said something like for once he didn’t do something for AJ Burnett, he did it for his family. How touching!!!!!

    I sensed AJ was a BSer a long time ago and now this confirms it. Bob Walk mentioned on 93.7 The Fan that AJ was THE MAN in the Bucs clubhouse in 2012 but, in 2013, not so much.

    He choked in the one of the biggest games of 2013 & then he threatens to quit on the team and not make the trip to St. Louis after Cole is chosen to start the biggest baseball game in Pittsburgh since 1992. What a freakin’ baby you are, AJ!!!!!!

    Wait until AJ hits some rough water in Philly and he criticizes the fans like he did here – let’s move on Bucco fans!

  65. Andrew says:

    Fair point Forever, I was assuming best free agents are ones who receive, >$10 AAV, or > $20 million in total contract, which is certainly arbitrary but I’ll concede that Russell Martin contradicts my take away. I always viewed him as a steal while the Yankees were considering the luxury tax, but that is more narrative than reality.

  66. Andrew says:

    I am thankful for Burnett’s contributions, but Jeff you certainly have a point, was the 90 minute drive or extra guaranteed $10 million for his family.

  67. Denis Cunningham says:

    Philly bribed A.J. with an additional four million dollars…what’s a conscientous family man to do? That’s serious lettuce–nothing to sneeze at!

    The Phillies over paid–no question–and they’ve done that time and time again. I don’t see this time being any different.

    And you’re right about the fans in Philly…they pummeled Santa with snow balls–didn’t they? Say a prayer for A.J….it’s the Christian thing to do!

  68. Jim S. says:

    And, I’m saying he doesn’t get a pass from the fans I talk to or read posts from.

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