After opting not to retire and to accept the Phillies’ offer of one year and $16 million (with numerous second-year options) during this past offseason, A.J. Burnett‘s short, albeit successful, stint in Pittsburgh seemed to be over. With almost four months of service (that’s what it’s turned into) for the Phillies, it appears Burnett could be headed back to Pittsburgh before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 22, 2014
Being that the Phillies vastly overpaid to land Burnett in the off-season, it wasn’t necessarily hard to believe that Burnett left an obviously better situation in Pittsburgh to move closer to his native area, in Maryland. Prior to this however, it was unknown that Burnett’s 2015 option grew by the amount of starts that he made. What Ruben Amaro and the organization were thinking giving such an attainable vesting option is beyond me.
There are a few things that work in the favor of the Pirates trying to re-acquire Burnett. First off, he appears perfectly fine with a return to the Steel city. Even if he wasn’t, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that Burnett doesn’t have the Pirates blocked on his partial no-trade clause, so if the two sides can agree on a deal, Burnett can’t decide now that he doesn’t want to go back to Pittsburgh. The final thing working in the Pirates favor, perhaps, is this.
Pirates club president Frank Coonelly told me today, “We have (financial) flexibility,” in reference to adding payroll at trade deadline.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 22, 2014
In July 2014, the small-market Pirates have the ability to take on some money. Whether or not that is enough to cover the more than six million Burnett is still owed the rest of this year and risk having to end up paying him between $10 and $13 million in 2015 remains to be seen. Now that we know the exact details of Burnett’s 2015 player option, it isn’t hard to see the Phillies having to take on salary to move the 37 year-old.