Burnett offers insight on departure to Philadelphia
February 16, 2014 11:17 PM
Former Pirates starter A.J. Burnett smiles Sunday during a news conference announcing his signing with the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- For as much scrutiny as A.J. Burnett's earning potential received this winter, at least one person wasn't sweating the fine print.
"To be honest with you, I don't know everything that's in my contract," Burnett said when asked about his limited no-trade clause. "That's why I have [agent] Darek [Braunecker]." To Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., seated next to him at a news conference, Burnett joked, "We'll go over the rest one of these days."
Burnett's contract with the Phillies became official Sunday. In his first public comments since late October, Burnett identified the opportunity to remain close to his family as the main reason he signed with Philadelphia. What Burnett did not mention was the financial reality of the contract, which exceeds what the Pirates were willing to offer.
According to multiple reports, Burnett's one-year deal is worth $15 million, $7.5 million of that in the form of a signing bonus. He has a $15 million mutual option for 2015, but if the Phillies decline, Burnett has a $7.5 million player option as well. Including his $1 million buyout, Burnett is guaranteed $23.5 million -- if he chooses to pitch in 2015 -- and the contract could be worth as much as $33.5 million with incentives based on games started.
The Pirates offered Burnett $12 million for one year.
Burnett repeatedly stressed geography as the driving factor in his decision. Philadelphia is about an hour and 45 minutes from Burnett's home in Monkton, Md., where he lives with his wife and two sons. He coaches his son's basketball team.
"My boys are getting at that age where they need a father figure," Burnett said. "My kids' birthdays are in March. They're in school, I never see them. That's the kind of stuff that wears on me. They're a big part of my life."
In an interview with KDKA-FM 93.7 in October, Burnett said that as of then, his plans were to return to the Pirates or retire.
"At that point in time, that's where I was at," he said. "It was a long year. It was a great year, it was a fun year. When I said that, at that time, that's where I was with my family, with my thoughts."
Burnett said it was "close both ways" regarding his decision of whether to sign in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia but denied that his frustration with the way manager Clint Hurdle handled the playoff rotation entered into his decision. Hurdle sent rookie Gerrit Cole to the mound, rather than Burnett, for Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium, a place where Burnett had historically struggled and also gotten rocked in Game 1. Like any pitcher, Burnett wanted to pitch, but he was upset he was not told in advance.
"That had no influence," he said. "I would have liked to have known ahead of time as opposed to where I was at. ... If it's going to put our team in a better spot, then I'm up for it."
As for the lack of a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Pirates, which would have ensured them draft pick compensation when Burnett signed with another team, Burnett said he didn't give it much thought.
"I mean, all due respect, I said I'm going to be done or play for you guys," he said. "In that regard, why would you, I guess?"
Burnett praised both the Pirates and Phillies for giving him space and allowing him to make the decision at his pace. He did not hear from Phillies starter Cliff Lee, who shares an agent with Burnett. He did receive a text message from Roy Halladay, who shared a rotation with Burnett in Toronto and pitched for the Phillies for the previous four seasons before retiring this winter. Halladay told Burnett his house was available.
"I was like, 'Hold on,'" Burnett said.
Burnett will wear Halladay's old No. 34.
Burnett spoke highly of his two seasons in Pittsburgh, where he underwent a career renaissance after his final two years with the New York Yankees proved difficult. He thanked the fans for embracing him "like I've never been taken in before in my whole career," praised Pirates management and spoke fondly of his former teammates.
"I'll never put myself in the same category as a Halladay, ever, but as far as mentor-wise and as far as a player, leadership-wise, I became that guy over there," he said. "I never really looked at myself as that guy, but as soon as I walked through that door, I was. I didn't have to say anything. It showed me who I was, who I could have been for a long time that I wasn't."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG.
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