Last March, A.J. Burnett said, "If I was to keep playing, I wouldn't want it to be anywhere else but Pittsburgh." 10 months later, that may no longer be the case. It appears that Burnett will continue to keep playing in 2014, but if it is in Pittsburgh, it will likely be because the Pirates offered him the best deal. And, as any long time fan of this club will tell you, the chances of the Pirates paying market value or above for any free agent are pretty slim. If Burnett does land elsewhere in 2014, there are sure to be hard feelings among many Buccos fans, and in some ways, it will look as if he did go back on his word about only wanting to be in Pittsburgh. However, the Pirates didn't exactly show a great desire to keep A.J. in the 'Burgh when they declined to make a 14.1 million dollar qualifying offer which could have made Burnett's decision easier.
So, did the Pirates make a mistake by not making that qualifying offer? Last year, Burnett's 209 strikeouts led all free agent starters, and placed him first in K/9 rate. For the more sabermetrically inclined, his 2.80 FIP and 2.92 xFIP were also tops. While his 4.0 WAR trailed only James Shields and Jon Lester. Not to mention that Burnett led the Pirates in all these stats as well as innings pitched. Shields' and Lester's club options were both picked up for 12 and 13 million respectively, and both are considerably younger than Burnett. But, we have also seen Hiroki Kuroda, who is one year older, sign a one year 16 million dollar deal with the Yankees. Given his age and comparable, if slightly less impressive, stat line last season, Kuroda might be the best comparison to A.J. this off season. And while it's impossible to guess what he will ultimately receive, I think it's safe to say that 14.1 million is easily within the range of market value for other comparable free agent starters.
I'm not usually a fan of printing plates, but A.J. does not have any Pirate related relics or autos on the market. This printing plate is from Topps Heritage and cost less than $10 on EBAY.