The Pirates did not extend a qualifying offer of $14.1 million to pitcher A.J. Burnett by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, but the franchise still hopes to retain the veteran right-hander.
“In our mind it really doesn’t change our position with A.J. at all,” said general manager Neal Huntington. “There were only 13 players issued qualifying offers from over 100 free agents. It’s a very small percentage of players. It is still our hope and still our goal to have A.J.”
A qualifying offer assures a team of a compensation pick in next year’s draft if the player rejects the deal and signs with another club.
Burnett has made it clear that scenario is unlikely. He has expressed publicly that he would like to return to the Pirates if he does not retire.
“The easy answer is if we extend and he accepts, that’s not a given that he’s a Pirate. He can still decline it. His ability to leave doesn’t change,” said Huntington. “We remain optimistic and remain respectful of A.J. to work through his process.”
Burnett earned $16.5 million in 2013, with $8.5 million of that paid by the New York Yankees as the final year of a five-year contract.
Burnett will be 37 in January, and though he is coming off two strong years with the Pirates, he could opt to retire to spend time with his family.
He was 10-11 last season with a 3.30 ERA and 209 strikeouts, which ranked fifth best in the National League.
Monday’s deadline ended a stretch of five days that teams had to make a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to their free agents. The amount of the qualifying offer, which increased by $800,000 this year, is set by baseball’s collective bargaining agreement as the average of the 125 highest contracts.
Of the Pirates’ seven free agents, only Burnett, shortstop Clint Barmes and pitcher Jeff Karstens were eligible. To be eligible a player has to have been with the club since the start of the season and have at least six years in the major leagues.
Right fielder Marlon Byrd, first baseman Justin Morneau, catcher John Buck and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth all joined the team during the season.
Barmes’ agent, Barry Meister, did not expect his client to receive a qualifying offer and said he planned to visit him today in Colorado to begin a deeper evaluation of his options, including the Pirates.
Barmes, who hit just .211 last season, provides defensive value at shortstop and could return to split games with Jordy Mercer. He earned $5.5 million in 2013.
“I think there are a number of possible landing places for him,” Meister said. “He’s got to weigh dollars, playing time. We haven’t even begun the process.”
The 13 free agents who did receive qualifying offers Monday were: St. Louis right fielder Carlos Beltran; New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, center fielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Hiroki Kuroda; Cincinnati center fielder Shin-Soo Choo; Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz; Boston shortstop Stephen Drew, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and first baseman Mike Napoli; Cleveland pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez; Atlanta catcher Brian McCann; Seattle first baseman Kendrys Morales; and Kansas City pitcher Ervin Santana.
Attempts to reach Burnett and his agent were unsuccessful.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez.