A.J. Burnett pitched well in 2013. In 30 starts he logged 191 innings with a 3.30 ERA for the Pittsburgh Pirates. At age 37, he showed that he is still a valuable piece in the rotation if he wishes to continue to pitch.
Burnett seems inclined to retire rather than pitch in 2014. Two teams, the Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles, are still waiting to see if they can sway him to pitch. Understandably so, as Burnett’s peripherals were filthy-good in 2013: he had a 2.80 FIP and a 2.92 xFIP. Let’s just say that his 10-11 W-L record was no sign that his effectiveness had declined.
In the case of the Pirates, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that they will shift their focus away from starting pitching if they do not get Burnett:
Burnett has yet to decide whether he’s returning to Pittsburgh or retiring. The Pirates probably won’t go after a pitcher if he does retire. Right now, the Pirates are looking for a full-time first baseman and would use the Burnett resources toward that end. The other wild card is the Orioles. Burnett lives in Baltimore.”
The Pirates have also wondered about sticking with internal options at first base. If they were willing to pony up the compensatory pick, there’s a plus bat available with Kendrys Morales. That doesn’t seem to jive with Pittsburgh’s philosophy in recent years, though, and so it would not be surprising if they waited for some of the season to play out before trying to deploy their resources to find help at first base or in the rotation.