Everyone, look who’s now available! Well, seriously, the Orioles badly need him…
After keeping the Pirates and the baseball world waiting for nearly the entire offseason, veteran free agent A.J. Burnett has decided to pitch in 2014, a source close to the situation told the Tribune-Review on Tuesday. Burnett was considering retirement.
Burnett's decision to return does not mean he will limit himself to pitching for the Pirates, though Burnett indicated that was his preference last season. The 37-year-old right-hander led the National League in groundball rate and strikeout rate last season, showing no signs of diminishing skills. The Phillies and Orioles also have reportedly expressed interest in Burnett, who makes his offseason home in Maryland.
“He's made the decision he is going to play,” said a source, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I suspect he is going to open himself up to the market.”
As we all know, Burnett was played an integral part in 2013 with success and playoff run with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA last season. Also, Burnett was a workhorse, throwing 191 innings. Most fans know he resides in north Baltimore country, making him a perfect fit for the Birds.
Although he is very much on the wrong side of 30 and close to the end of his career, the Orioles need a veteran arm. They also need an arm to stabilize a rotation with Chris Tillman as the de-facto ace of the team right now. Burnett would be a valuable weapon in a Baltimore rotation loaded with a bunch of number two and three starters.
Burnett is a groundball guy, but still has quite an arm; however, I would be a bit concern about how he would pitch at Oriole Park and the American League East.
I keep thinking about what Burnett did as a member of the New York Yankees. He was not that great, and his performance with that organization actually led to the trade to Pittsburgh.
Despite that, he is still the best arm out there left on the marker. According to Peter Gammons of MLB.com, the Orioles “are all in”.
Let’s hope the Birds give Burnett what he wants. I would not give him any more than a one-year deal or so.