Bucs hope to lock up Burnett with qualifying offer
Of their seven free agents, the Pirates are eager to re-sign three: Right-hander A.J. Burnett, outfielder Marlon Byrd and shortstop Clint Barmes. That leaves Justin Morneau, John Buck, Kyle Farnsworth and Jeff Karstens at least on the backburner — and, most likely, out.
Burnett’s case is by far the most intriguing — because he has gone on the record that he will either pitch for the Pirates or retire. A heck of a negotiating stance, should he decide to continue his career. In all likelihood, the Bucs will make his the qualifying offer of $14.1 million and he will accept — buy both sides time to negotiate a new deal if he decided to go on.
The five-day exclusivity window is a non-issue with Burnett, given his Bucs-or-out stance. But GM Neal Huntington will push hard for deals within that timeframe with Byrd and Barmes. With Gregory Polanco having dibs on right field and Jordy Mercer the ’14 shortstop regular, both Boyd and Mercer could be more valuable to other teams, and thus get higher offers on the open market.
The Pirates had to talk themselves into giving the injury-prone Karstens a new deal last offseason, and sure enough he didn’t throw one pitch for them. Buck, a short-term placeholder for Tony Sanchez — the new No. 2 behind Russell Martin — and Farnsworth could be resigned in late January if they find no market. Morneau will most likely seek a deal that returns the lifetime Twin to the American League.
– Tom Singer