Huntington will have to again get creative to bag Burnett
Neal Huntington went on the air [970ESPN] Friday night to explain why the Pirates did not make a qualifying offer to A.J. Burnett: The $14.1 million does not fit in the club’s payroll.
This is neither news — the Pirates have never had an eight-figure player, and even if they push their 2014 payroll into the $100 million range, the qualifying level would represent 14 percent of it — nor does it mean the Bucs will not be re-signing the pitcher, if ultimately he decides to keep pitching. The 36-year-old vet is still mulling over retirement.
It does probably mean Huntington will once again have to get creative. Burnett rightfully does not think he should take a significant cut in guaranteed salary after having the best strikeout ratio [9.8/9 innings] of NL starters while earning $16.5 million. The Yankees still picked up $8 million of that.
If Burnett has been sincere about not wishing to pitch anywhere else but Pittsburgh, and would be unwilling to do it at a reduced rate, he would be left with nowhere to go, right?
Not necessarily. No one has yet discussed this openly, but this is where Huntington could get creative:
Burnett is torn between his real family and the Pirates family? Neither professional pride — nor, for that matter, the union — would let him take a pay slash?
Burnett could satisfy both of those conditions by making a midseason return, a la Roger Clemens a few years back. That would allow Burnett family time, and for the Bucs to shoehorn the prorated portion of an eight-figure salary into their budget. And, just in case a jolt is needed both in the clubhouse and at the gate, imagine the impact of a mid-June Burnett landing.