Friday, April 19, 2013

Just Give Us One More Year, A.J.

After watching A.J. Burnett spin a masterful game on Wednesday night, thanks to a ridiculously good 2 plane curveball, I realized just how important Burnett has been these past 2 years.  Burnett has been something the Pirates have lacked since 1992 -- a true, bonafide stopper.  He's not a true "ace" like Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander, but he is a strong, strong #2.

Burnett has also been a positive influence on the clubhouse and has warmly embraced and appreciated the support the fans have given him.  I didn't anticipate that Burnett would be like this, thanks to a less than stellar impression received about him due to some of his youthful immaturity and perceived "big-timeness" that I thought he would bring with him.

Burnett has already hinted that when his contract expires after this year he may consider retirement.  It seems that when you first start to think about retirement, you're all ready to retire.  But I hope that, selfishly, Burnett will give the Pirates one more year.  Yes, he has kids and a wife that spends more time in Baltimore than Jimmy McNulty and Avon Barksdale from The Wire, but his stuff is not waning in the least bit.

In his first four starts of the season, Burnett has racked up 35 strikeouts in just 24 innings.  I'm not the Elias Bureau over here, but my quick research has showed that this is the most K's compiled by Burnett in a four game period since Aug/Sept 2008 when he pitched for Toronto and had 36 K's, albeit in 29 innings.

A.J.'s contract is up at the end of this year on the tail end of a 5 year/$82.5M deal ($16.5/year).  I would love to see the Pirates re-up him for 1 year at $14-16M.  Normally, the response would be "the Pirates can't afford that", but in 2014 the new national TV deals go into effect and each team's share will rise from $23M to $50M per year.  That's $27M more to spend on major league payroll and I could think of no better place for it, especially when the Pirates' core player are still relatively affordable and under team control.

If Burnett would come back in 2014, he could front a power rotation that would feature Gerrit Cole and possibly Jameson Taillon straight out of Spring Training.  If Rodriguez exercises his player option, he would be the #4 starter.  That would easily be the best rotation since the halcyon days of the early 90's.

So please A.J. let's do this one more time.  I'll even spring for a tattoo for you.

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