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Pirates rumors: A.J. Burnett talks 'all but dead'

Mike Stobe

Jayson Stark writes that the possibility of the Pirates trading for A.J. Burnett is "all but dead."

[T]he Pirates have been unable to get assurances that Burnett won't pick up his player option for next season, which could pay him as much as $14.25 million if he makes 32 starts. The Phillies have been telling other clubs they expect Burnett to retire. And Burnett has told teammates the same thing. But the Pirates aren't willing to take a gamble that expensive. As an executive of another team put it, "He keeps saying he's going to retire. But he said that last year, too."

Like I was saying on the podcast, the fact that Burnett has a player option is actually worse than his 2015 salary being guaranteed, because Burnett can pick up the option if he pitches badly down the stretch and get out of it if he pitches well. (There's also the fact that Burnett's $7.5 million signing bonus is actually deferred, although I assume the Phillies would probably pick that up if they traded Burnett.) It's not the world's worst contract, but it's an awfully silly one. (There are a ton of annoying details of the contract -- for more, see here.) If the Phillies are motivated to trade Burnett, I would think the two parties could work out some sort of trade that mitigates the Pirates' risk depending on the outcome of Burnett's option. But who knows. Given the decline in Burnett's performance this year, it's understandable that his contract is an obstacle.