Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage* told a radio station in Pittsburgh that he’s proceeding under the assumption now that 37-year-old righty A.J. Burnett is retiring. Burnett has had a very successful two-year run in Pittsburgh after a disastrous stint in New York, but has reportedly been contemplating retirement for some time.
And you’re wondering why I’m writing about this.
Well, for a while now, Burnett’s self-imposed options for 2014 appeared to be the Pirates or retirement, although the Orioles have long been connected to the free agent. Even as recently as two days ago, Dan Connolly reported a “sense that [Burnett] is the guy the Orioles want” to satisfy their offseason-long need for a starting pitcher, while acknowledging the possibility that Burnett could retire (or head to another team, in theory).
If Burnett does retire, as Searage has said he’s expecting, the Pirates and Orioles are suddenly left without a primary option for their rotation heading into 2014. Say, have we heard the Pirates and Orioles connected to any other pitching options out there?
That’s right: each of the Pirates and Orioles has been among the teams connected to the Cubs with respect to Jeff Samardzija, should the Cubs opt to trade the 28-year-old righty. While the baseball world waits on the Tanaka-Garza/Santana/Jimenez dominoes to fall before any possibility of a Samardzija trade resurfaces, it’s possible that the Pirates and Orioles have simply been waiting on Burnett. Neither team is believed to have the resources to sign any of those four premium free agents.
Now, all that said: do I think there’s a perfect system at work here, where the Pirates and Orioles will immediately hop on the phone with the Cubs about Samardzija the moment Burnett retires (or signs with one of them, but not the other)? Nah. The point here is mostly that, should Burnett no longer be available to either of these teams that would like him, their efforts to secure a starting pitcher may have to shift. They’ve been known to be interested in Samardzija in the past, though the price at the time may have scared them off, especially considering that Burnett was still a possibility. That’s as far we can go at this point. It’s just something to watch.
*(Which I read as “Sea Rage,” and I immediately picture giant waves rising up out of the ocean like fists, shaking them at a nearby skyscraper, screaming, “I’ll show you for upstaging my natural beauty! Sea rage!!!”)