In light of recent news, most notably the Pirates pursuit of AJ Burnett I have decided to put my 2012 expectations series on delay for a couple of days. Starting pitchers are the next group scheduled and the presence of Burnett would greatly alter the position. I’m going to give it to Tuesday and then whether something happens or not run with what I have.
Now within that same thought I’ll give my opinion on the potential Burnett acquisition. The 2012 Pirates as constructed are short on pitching. I did a piece earlier where I ended up having them be about 140 innings shy of a full season. Acquiring Burnett would definitely fill those innings.
In my mind any possible acquisition at this point has to meet two criteria, 1) It has to improve the 2012 team and 2) It can’t impede the future. It is rather obvious to me that acquiring AJ Burnett upgrades the 2012 Pirates as it would lessen the chance of needing to pitch Locke or Owens early in the season or needing Martis or Reyes to start games this season. So the real question becomes does he do something to impede the future? I find it difficult to believe the Pirates are going to give any prospect of value to get him so in that regard he has no effect but he can effect it negatively in two other ways, 1) Blocking prospects who proved themselves worthy or 2) Hamstringing the Pirates financially thus preventing them from signing McCutchen long term or stopping them from pursuing a free agent next year.
If Owens, Locke or McPherson prove themselves this season in AAA I find it highly unlikely that the Pirates would not be able to find them a spot in the rotation. Morton and Bedard both have injury concerns and McDonald and Karstens are both coming off career high in innings meaning overuse is a real possibility. So now the issue becomes does he hinder the Pirates financially? To know that for sure we would need to know exactly how much the Pirates were taking on. I think it is safe to assume that whatever amount they take on should have no impact on their ability to extend McCutchen. As for pursuing a free agent next offseason the Pirates should have little trouble clearing salary if that is the direction they choose to go.
Bottom line if the Pirates can get Burnett for a reasonable price, 10-12 million and some non-prospect prospects I see little downside in this move.