MLB Rumors: Is A.J. Burnett An Option For The Kansas City Royals


Starting pitcher A.J. BurnettMandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

With Spring Training just a couple of weeks away, the Kansas City Royals appear ready to go into camp with the players already on their roster. That doesn’t mean the Royals aren’t still looking to improve their team, especially the rotation.

There have been all kinds of Ervin Santana rumors floating around the baseball world this week, in which KC Kingdom has been monitoring (Monday‘s, Tuesday‘s, Wednesday‘s). A new name has emerged though, and it is an intriguing one for the Royals – A.J. Burnett.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Burnett plans to pitch this season, and will test the free agent market. He joins Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Bronson Arroyo as the top free agents available.

Burnett should immediately interest the Royals because he can probably be had on a one-year deal, and he won’t cost Kansas City a draft pick.

The 37-year old pitched in Pittsburgh last season, producing a career low 3.30 ERA. His 1.215 WHIP was the third lowest in his 15-year career. He also set career highs in K/9 (9.8), and K/BB (3.12). He matched a career low in HR/9 with .5, a number he has accomplished 3 times.

Burnett is an extreme ground ball pitcher whose skill set would fit in nicely with the Royals outstanding defense. According to Fangraphs, Burnett coaxed ground balls 56.5% of the time on all balls put into play in 2013, and is at 50.4% for his career.

Burnett is ground ball pitcher who recorded 209 strikeouts last season, and doesn’t surrender many home runs. Figure in the fact he would pitch half his games in Kauffman Stadium, and he would be a perfect fit for the Royals in a one-year contract.

Santana is looking for more years and a bigger payday. The Royals have a handful of young arms they hope develop into top of the rotation starters in the next year or two, so they are not very interested in a very long-term deal. They could approach Burnett with a solid offer for the 2014 season, and not have to worry about the financial ramifications beyond this season.

Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

If they could somehow coax Burnett to Kansas City, they would not have to worry about what Santana is asking for any longer; they will just collect the draft pick when someone eventually signs him.

The bigger question is what would Burnett cost, even for just one year? He earned $16.5 million last year for the Pirates, and produced what was a career year.

What are the chances he could replicate that season at 37? The odds aren’t good, but if he maintained his ground ball and home run rates, he could afford a drop in his power numbers, and still be very effective.

Of course, he wouldn’t get to face any pitchers in the American League.

The Royals, when it comes right down to it, could probably afford $10 million for this season, even if this puts them over a fluid self-imposed cap. The Royals are looking at a payroll of around $92 million for this season (depends on what Greg Holland gets in arbitration), a franchise high. If push comes to shove, they can probably afford $103 million.

Burnett will probably want more than $10 million. It might take as much as $16 million, or about what he made last season. That is probably too high for the Royals, even for one year. Kansas City does have over $13 million committed to Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis, and Emilio Bonifacio, so if they could move 2 of these three contracts, it still may be possible.

If the Royals are in a true “go for it” mode, they may just decide to take a big chance, and go after Burnett. He could be that one piece that could push the Royals in the postseason. The Royals are not a franchise that does that sort of thing very often though.

This season may just be their best chance to make a big run for the playoffs until their next wave of prospects mature. James Shields will be gone after the season, and it will be awhile before any other the prospects will be good enough to fill his shoes. Now is the time for the Royals.

They should go for it!

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