Reactions To A.J. Burnett Signing

Today's signing of free agent starter A.J. Burnett by the Phillies (one year, $16MM, plus a mutual option) brings to an end a brief-but-interesting period of a fascinating free agent signing class. Long expected either to re-sign with the Pirates or instead retire, the 37-year-old threw a wrench into an already-straggling pitching market when it was revealed that he would not only return for another year, but would be open to alternative destinations. Having re-established himself as a top-end arm, but being available on a short-term deal, Burnett further downgraded the market outlook for draft-compensation-bound starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. But by signing with the Phils, who had not figured to be in play for Jimenez or Santana, Burnett leaves the market much as he found it — albeit further slowed, perhaps. (Indeed, with Matt Garza going to another relatively unexpected landing spot with the Brewers, those hurlers may now be in a better position, timing notwithstanding.) Ultimately, the Phillies proved to be every bit the wild card I suggested they might be at the outset of the off-season, but in some respects functioned to restore the rest of the market to expectations.

  • Of course, that is not to say that Burnett's signing is of little moment. To the contrary, it has important implications — in particular, for both of MLB's Pennsylvania-based franchises. As Ben Lindbegh of Baseball Prospectus writes, the Pirates may have learned a difficult lesson by failing to made Burnett a qualifying offer. Rejecting the hypotheses that the club did not want to sign him or was genuinely unable to do so financially, Lindbergh opines that the Pittsburgh likely mistakenly felt it would be readily able to get him back for less than the $14.1MM QO.
  • Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington weighed in again on the qualifying offer decision, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (Twitter links). Huntington acknowledged that such an offer arguably made quite a bit of sense from a "value standpoint." But, he explained, "the reality is in 10-15 markets a qualifying offer, if accepted, becomes a large chunk of payroll." As Huntington has stated previously, the team did not feel that it could take a $14.1MM payroll hit for Burnett.
  • According to Huntington (links to Twitter, via Sawchik), Burnett "informed us it was family-based. The player made a decision to be closer to home." Declining to disclose whether the club made a competitive offer — he said that question was better posed to Burnett and his agent — Huntington said that "A.J. would have had the biggest single impact of any single move we made this off-season."
  • From the Phillies' perspective, the deal runs the club's payroll up to approximately $189MM, a new club record, says Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter). Though the final tally is somewhat unclear, that means that Philadelphia could well approach or exceed MLB's $189MM luxury cap. As's Alex Speier has explained, the impact of going over that mark comes not just in the tax owed on overages, but in sacrificing the ability to participate in revenue-sharing refunds. Even if the Phils remain under the $189MM level on Opening Day, moreover, the cap could play a role in how the club weighs mid-season moves.
  • Burnett's substantial salary would hinder his trade value if the Phillies end up looking to move him, tweets's Buster Olney. The newly-reported inclusion of a limited no-trade clause, likewise, represents a barrier to such a possibility and could substantially limit Burnett's market. 
  • Several commentators have weighed in positively on the deal on the Phillies' end.'s Corey Seidman, for instance, argues that the signing makes better sense of the club's earlier moves to sign veterans like Carlos Ruiz, Marlon Byrd, and Roberto Hernandez in a bid to make a playoff push. As Seidman notes, most of those deals have the added benefit of not adding long-term money to the books.'s Richard Justice offers that Burnett joins a cast of veterans who still have plenty of talent, and could help push the team into contention.
  • On the flip side, the deal could be seen as throwing good money after bad given the club's aging roster. In the view of's Keith Law (Insider link), Burnett looks to represent solid value at a one-year commitment of $16MM. But, he says, Philadelphia was the wrong team to take on that big salary. Even assuming that Cole Hamels is mostly healthy — he is reportedly dealing with shoulder and biceps discomfort and will likely not quite be ready for Opening Day — Law argues that the club still looks like a .500 outfit. And the Phillies cannot take full advantage of Burnett's ability to induce grounders, says Law, because they field a below-average defensive infield and do not employ an analytics-based infield alignment strategy like that utilized by the Pirates.

66 Responses to Reactions To A.J. Burnett Signing Leave a Reply

  1. WhoKilledTheRallyMonkey 1 year ago

    My reaction: AJ really stuck it to the Pirates. You want to test the open market fine but don’t say its Pittsburg or retirement and then sign with the Phillies!

    • CH 1 year ago

      It sounds like the PIrates never made a true offer. Can’t blame AJ if he wanted to pitch and PITT didn’t offer him a competitive contract

      • WhoKilledTheRallyMonkey 1 year ago

        He knew Pittsburg’s was a small market club and stated he would play for Pittsburg or retire after they declined to offer him a QO.

        • Matt Mccarron 1 year ago

          He stated he wanted to be close to home, not that it was Pittsburg or retirement. Philly is about 5 hours closer to his home then Pittsburg. Can’t blame him for wanting to pitch in a big market town.

        • CH 1 year ago

          Maybe, maybe not. But if PITT couldn’t afford 14.1, what could they afford? and what was offered? 16 MIL guaranteed and an option for next would be hard to turn down no matter what someone said in the past

        • CraigInPhoenix 1 year ago

          Somehow other small market clubs manage to sign free agents. The Brewers gave Garza 51 million. Cleveland has signed several FAs over the last couple years. The Pirates are pretending they are poor and are sticking it to their fans. It is pathetic.

          • TigerFan1968 1 year ago

            Pirates made the playoffs. They have a real good team. No need to blow a big wad on a 37 year old,injury prone,could not pitch in the AL guy.

          • PiratesFan 1 year ago

            I somewhat agree, but I wouldn’t call someone who’s made at least 30 starts the last 6 years as injury prone.

          • ColoredPaper 1 year ago

            Yeah, let’s try to keep updated with information if you’re going to use it as part of your argument. It’s been years since Burnett has been considered as injury prone.

  2. Lefty_Orioles_Fan 1 year ago

    Well, the Phillies show no shame in spending money that’s for sure!
    I mean since Ruby has been at the helm, they have spent money every year and what exactly do they have to show for it?

    • Shanersedict 1 year ago

      They are a mess now, but they do have a World Series ring to show for it…

    • Matt Mccarron 1 year ago

      5 straight division champions, a world series, one of the top 1-2 punches in MLB. A aging former-superstar core and a decent farm system. They don’t spend money every year. They spent what.. 10M last offseason on Adams, Lannan and Delmon? Another 7M for Michael Young.

      • Lefty_Orioles_Fan 1 year ago

        It was really Pat Gillicks’s doing as far as I am concerned.
        At least that’s how I feel about it.

        Plus, don’t forget Pappelbon and J Roll’s contracts.

        • Phillies_Aces35 1 year ago

          Gillick did just as much to hamstring the franchise as Ruben did if people really stop and look at it. (Trading Gio and Gavin, signing Lidge, signing Eaton, getting nothing for Abreu, etc)

          If they don’t trade for Lee, sign Pedro, trade for Halladay and Oswalt, etc.they don’t make the playoffs in 2009, 10, or 11. All moves Ruben made.

      • TigerFan1968 1 year ago

        and how has Young and Papellbum worked out for you? Players hold all the cards as these big money teams fall over each other with blunder after blunder. 16 million for Burnett. Hilarious.

        • Matt Mccarron 1 year ago

          Idk, Papelbon put up nearly 70 saves in 2 years. a 2.67 ERA, an Allstar appearance, lead the league in games finished in 2012. Its not ideal, but its not a awful deal either.

          • TigerFan1968 1 year ago

            But he is a closer. No need to pay him Ace starter money. Not to mention long term contract. Check out the Rays on money management. Verlander 250 innings 25 mill = 100,000 per inning. Papellbon 60 innings 15 million = 400,000 per inning.

          • Matt Mccarron 1 year ago

            Which ace who was already a FA, not in arbitration is making 14M a year? I don’t exactly agree with his contract, but its not like hes been downright Brandon-League terrible. Hes still very productive for his role.

      • Dickie Thon 1 year ago

        Actually Michael Young only ended up costing them about $4 mill for the year I believe

  3. Robert Tyson 1 year ago

    Of course Law hated it.

    • Dylan 1 year ago

      I guess you didn’t read his column in their farm. His evaluation of the Phillies and their farm is very fair and valid.

      • Phillyfan425 1 year ago

        I almost fell out of my chair when I read the synopsis of his evaluation (didn’t get to read the full thing because who wants to pay for Insider). But his liking for the system seems to be JP Crawford (a top 15 pick) and Cord Sandberg (a first round talent that fell to the 3rd rd because of his commitment to be an SEC QB).

        • Dylan 1 year ago

          Yeah. He loved their draft.

          • Phillyfan425 1 year ago

            Whenever the Phillies make a move (trade, FA signing, minor league signing) I expect 2 things.
            1. Keith Law will think it’s a poor move.
            2. The vast majority (over 83%) of Phillies fans will think it’s a poor move – and use a Law article as “proof” that it is.

  4. CraigInPhoenix 1 year ago

    And this is why it will always suck to be a Pirates fan. Lets not kid ourselves, they are rolling in cash, especially after making the playoffs last year, but a one year deal for 16 million is out of the question. If that is too much for them, how will they ever compete? Cleveland is not a huge market and somehow they have the money to go after free agents. The Brewers went out and managed to get Garza, and Milwaukee is not a big market. But the Pirates are constantly too poor to do anything. Woe is me.

    • Todd Smith 1 year ago

      Cleveland 2013 Opening Day payroll: $82,517,300. 92 wins.
      Arizona 2013 Opening Day payroll: $90,158,500. 81 Wins
      Milwaukee 2013 Opening Day payroll: $91,003,366. 74 wins.
      Angels 2013 Opening Day payroll: $142,165,250. 78 wins.
      Dodgers 2013 Opening Day payroll: $216,302,909. 92 wins.
      Yankees 2013 Opening Day payroll: $228,995,945. 85 wins.

      Pirates 2013 Opening Day payroll: $66,289,524. 94 wins.

      Woe is me. How will they ever compete?

    • connfyoozed . 1 year ago

      If you really think that not throwing $16 million after a 37 year old pitcher means the end of the world, it’s your prerogative… but you can make just as good of an argument that it was a sensible business decision as it was a case of not being able to afford someone. Sure, Burnett was excellent as a Pirate… but is he really worth being 1/5th of their team payroll?

  5. Smrtbusnisman04 1 year ago

    I wish AJ the best of luck with the Phillies; he’s gonna need it with that lackluster Philly defense. I’m just happy he didn’ t sign with the Nationals because they are probably gonna compete for the Wildcard with Pitt.

    As for Pittsburgh, I think they’ll be fine. They’ll have Charlie Morton and Gerritt Cole for a full year and even if Edinson Volquez struggles, Jameson Taillon should be ready for the big leagues by August.

  6. RhapsodyinBlue 1 year ago

    Law’s analysis looked really lazy, he just sounds bitter that Ruben has a job and he doesn’t. I don’t even like Ruben either.

  7. CraigInPhoenix 1 year ago

    If the Pirates can’t afford a 1 year/16 million dollar contract, they need to just close up shop. Somehow other small market teams can afford free agents. The Brewers got Garza. The Indians brought in Bourn last year. But the Pirates are so poor they can’t afford anything more than Edinson Volquez. Hopefully the Pirates fans don’t buy the nonsense coming from their front office. Even if the stands were empty and they weren’t getting a penny from their tv contract (which they aren’t) they are getting revenue sharing money. Which the owners are pocketing while they pretend they are too poor to afford anything.

    • Smrtbusnisman04 1 year ago

      So the Athletics should get contracted asap?

      They only paid $8 million for him last season. They just extended Charlie Morton, who when healthy, is just as effective as Mr. Burnett. Plus, they are gonna have to begin thinking about extensions for Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, and Pedro Alvarez, who will not be had cheaply. They have to start setting aside money for those players.

      • CraigInPhoenix 1 year ago

        Athletics some how have money to spend too. They spent a lot to bring in Cespedes. Giving Burnett a 1 year deal still leaves plenty of money for those other extensions. But again, believe the nonsense coming from the Pirates FO if you want. I hope you enjoyed those playoffs because it will be another 21 years.

        • Smrtbusnisman04 1 year ago

          Only I started following them in 2009, so I saw 4 seasons of losing.

        • Todd Smith 1 year ago

          LOL! Doooom! I think you need to be just a little more dramatic to sell your point.

    • Todd Smith 1 year ago

      The Pirates current payroll for 2014 sits right around $75MM. Adding Burnett at $16MM would push that payroll over $90MM, and you have your #3 starter making 18% of your total team payroll for the season. I guess they’ll just have to cross their fingers that nobody gets injured and Lambo can figure out how to play 1st base, because they have no room at all to add anybody else through free agency or mid-season trades. Brilliant plan. The nonsense isn’t coming from the front office, it’s coming from Phoenix.

      • Paulie Corleone 1 year ago

        I get what you’re saying and mostly agree but you take it a bit too far to the extreme in trying to make your point by saying Burnett would be the #3 starter… He was worth 4 fWAR last year, almost a full win ahead of Liriano.

        Steamer and Oliver both project Burnett to outperform Liriano and Cole this season.

        Burnett would be the Pirates #1 in 2014

        • Todd Smith 1 year ago

          Liriano was the #1 last year, he just missed a month at the start of the season. Liriano got the call to start the Wild Card game even though Burnett was already on 5 days of rest the day of the game. Cole clearly passed Burnett by when they decided to skip Burnett’s start to let Cole pitch the deciding game of their playoff series against the Cards. The rotation would have been Liriano, Cole, Burnett, Morton, Wandy…with Locke, Volquez, Taillon and Kingham backing that up.

          • Paulie Corleone 1 year ago

            You use your opinion, I use statistics…. I’m not here to try to convince you to change your mind, but my stance can’t be completely dismissed

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            The only statistic you’re using is WAR that shows Burnett is almost worth 1 win more than Francisco Liriano when Liriano spends a month on the DL. Considered it completely dismissed. AJ Burnett is a #3 starter.

          • Paulie Corleone 1 year ago

            Boy you really don’t like when someone disagrees with you.

            Why do you refuse to reference 2014 projections that put Burnett ahead of BOTH Liriano and Cole? Are you trying to tell me you, the illustrious MLBTR commenter, knows more than the guys who put together those systems?

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            Why do you refuse to acknowledge what actually happened last year and focus only on maybes and predictions. At the end of the season last year, AJ Burnett was the #3 starter for the Pirates.

          • CraigInPhoenix 1 year ago

            With logic like that…

            Way to really show him…

          • ColoredPaper 1 year ago

            Yeah, I’ll have to disagree. Burnett was the ace of that team last season. He and Liriano were definitely a great 1-2 punch for the Pirates though.

        • Paulie Corleone 1 year ago

          I know Seattle isn’t exactly a “model franchise” but Felix Hernandez carries a $22.85m hit and their payroll is at about $73m currently (31%)

          Joe Mauer takes 30% of the Twins payroll and Ricky Nolasco (LOL) 15.8%

          If you prefer better teams, Adam Wainwright takes up 19% of the Cardinals payroll

          If you prefer better teams in a similar market size, Jim Johnson (A closer) takes up 14.25% of Oakland’s payroll

          TL;DR 18% isn’t exactly unheard of for one player, even on successful teams

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            AJ Burnett is not Felix Hernandez. Sad that I actually had to state that.

          • Paulie Corleone 1 year ago

            Did you even bother to read the rest of the post?

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            Oh. My bad. AJ Burnett is not Adam Wainwright. Even more sad that I still have to state these things.

          • Paulie Corleone 1 year ago

            This is like trying to explain something to a 5 year old…

          • Paulie Corleone 1 year ago

            Everyone else will realize that I never compared Burnett to those players, I’m merely disputing your assertion that a team can’t function when one player takes up such a large chunk of payroll

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            I never said a team couldn’t function with such a large chunk of payroll. I said AJ Burnett isn’t worth such a large chunk of payroll. Then you decided to tell me about Felix Hernandez. This is like a 5 year old trying to explain things to me.

      • CraigInPhoenix 1 year ago

        Milwaukee had a 90 million dollar payroll last year. Are you saying they are that much bigger a market than Pittsburgh (actually they are a SMALLER market)? Again, that is ridiculous nonsense. The Pirates just made the playoffs last year. They could have generated so much goodwill by investing just a little bit of the money they made off that playoff run back in the team, but they are still pretending they are poor.

        • Todd Smith 1 year ago

          I agree that the Pirates can get to $90MM in total payroll this year if they need to. They are still looking at adding a 1st baseman. I’m sure they will want to add to the team at the trade deadline the same way they have the past 3 years. That’s why spending almost 20% of your payroll on AJ Burnett would be such a horrible mistake. You want to look at one player and over react without understanding anything about the team.

          • Paulie Corleone 1 year ago

            So 17.6% is “almost 20%”?

            I thought it was 17.6%

            20% of $91m is 18.2m, more than $2m difference in what Burnett received.

            Stop changing numbers to try to make your points more solid. Stick to facts.

    • OldHaus 1 year ago

      The numbers are incomplete. Total revenue sharing numbers aren’t reflective of the bottom line each team gets after the pension obligations are taken out. The Pirates aren’t a public company so we don’t have a full accounting of how much the owner makes.

      Maybe the Pirates owners can spend more. But, should that ‘more’ be spent on one player? Money spent on Burnett is money they probably can’t spend somewhere else.

      It’s a shame the Pirates play in field largely payed for by taxpayers but those taxpayers have no actual idea how much the owners make. It’s probably a guarantee they aren’t losing money.

      • CraigInPhoenix 1 year ago

        Considering what free agents are getting, a 1 year 16 million dollar deal for AJ Burnett is a pretty good deal and it leaves money to sign other players who will get more expensive next year. As a Diamondback fan, I wish my team had gotten Burnett at that price than Arroyo for 2 years and 23 million.

        • Smrtbusnisman04 1 year ago

          You are acting like AJ is Bob Gibson reincarnated. Go look at his home-based splits from last season.

          • CraigInPhoenix 1 year ago

            No, but he is one of the better pitchers on the market. After Tanaka, he might have been the best pitcher on the market. If Bob Gibson were on the market, he would be getting 30 million per year.

  8. PiratesFan 1 year ago

    Huntington said that “A.J. would have had the biggest single impact of any single move we made this off-season.” Not a very bold statement when your big move is signing Edinson Volquez for one year, 5 mil.

  9. pft2 1 year ago

    Taking into account revenue sharing, the Pirates spent 23.2% of their own revenue on
    payroll. That’s less than 1/2 the league average. Regardless of market size, every teams hould be spending roughly the same percentage of revenue on payroll If you have smaller revenues and still spend a smaller percentage of that revenue on payroll than other teams, you simply are not trying.

    Also, despite a 25 million bump in national TV money, the Pirates have thus far spent only 10% of that on payroll.

    • CraigInPhoenix 1 year ago

      Don’t tell that to the Pirates fans out here. Or maybe they are Pirates executives pretending to be fans.

    • Smrtbusnisman04 1 year ago

      Where are y out getting these numbers? And no, I don’t work for the Pirates.

      In fact, I would love to be able to audit them and see where the he’ll all their money is going. But

  10. Smrtbusnisman04 1 year ago

    I just looked at AJ’s 2013 splits;

    PNC park: 2.37 era, 1.06 whip, 3.53 K/BB
    Away: 4.22 era, 1.37 whip, 2.74 K/BB

    Those numbers don’t even include his horrible start in game 1 of the NLDS. I just think it’s funny that he is worth $16 million and he is moving from a major pitcher friendly park to Citizens Bank Park.

  11. Phillies_Aces35 1 year ago

    They do employ that type of defense though in a way. Chase Utley is the most prepared infielder in Major League baseball and he shifts himself based on information he’s studied personally and I’m sure he conveys that information to his teammates.

    • Phillyfan425 1 year ago

      Shhhh…Keith Law says they don’t, so they don’t.

      P.S. Is Keith still grading their infield defense with MY at 3rd? Nobody is a fantastic fielder, but I’d venture a guess that they end up in the middle of the pack with infield fielding this year.

  12. Rich 1 year ago

    The Phillies probably overpaid for a 37 year old pitcher that may or may not get the job done. They’ve been doing that for a few years now. I think this is Ruben Amaro’s last big signing if the Phillies don’t really place highly in the playoffs, no other Phillies GM has been given the cash that Ruben has squandered for the last several years and doesn’t have anything to show for it. Yes, we had 2 no-hitters from Doc in 2010 – we loved that, but add up all that salary 10-11-12-13 and what did the Phillies really get? A bunch of nothing.

    • Phillyfan425 1 year ago

      Best team in baseball the first 2 years – including setting a franchise mark in wins in 2011.

      They didn’t win a WS, but that doesn’t mean the GM didn’t do his job. It’s a GM’s job to construct the best possible team. Unfortunately, the best team doesn’t always (heck, doesn’t often) win the WS.

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