Neal Huntington On Burnett: “Every Indication We Had Was That He Wanted To Return”
PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington joined Colin Dunlap, Josh Miller and Jim Colony on The Fan Morning Show Friday to discuss the departure of A.J. Burnett and how it impacts the team’s offseason plans.
Huntington said that the team handled Burnett’s free agency the way that they did– namely, by not extending him a qualifying offer — because of the information that they had available to them at the time.
“Every indication we had was that he wanted to return and only to return to Pittsburgh, and he was going to make his decision quickly,” Huntington said.
Huntington noted that players simply haven’t been accepting qualifying offers, which might be a sign that the current system doesn’t work.
“There hasn’t been a player that has accepted it in the two years,” Huntington said. “And given that there are five players still out there this year, I think you may see some changes, either in that acceptance process or to the process in general.”
He pointed out that, had Burnett signed, this year’s payroll would have topped last year’s payroll for the highest in franchise history, and explained that not spending that money now leaves them with more room to take care of other concerns down the road.
“The payroll is continuing to grow,” Huntington said. “It will continue to grow. We’ll have some financial flexibility as we go forward. We’ll also have a large number of young players that are going to continue to earn more and more as they go through arbitration and approach free agency, and that’s a great thing.”
He feels that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to expect the Pirates to be big movers in free agency.
“We will probably never win the offseason,” Huntington said. “Nor will most small- to mid-market teams. we’re much more focused on showing up and doing everything in our power to win as many games as we possibly can and reward the fan base by winning games and being a playoff-caliber team, and not necessarily winning the talk shows in the offseason or the papers in the offseason.”
The interview can be heard here: