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VEB Annals: The A.J. Burnett Non-Signing

Earlier this week on Future Redbirds, I went back through the VEB archives and tried to weave the tale of Adam Ottavino in real time. It reminded me that one of the reasons I enjoy VEB now is that there is over half a decade of history stored here. Thoughts, posts, comments -- all stored from the moment events took place and recorded in the annals of SBN.

This past week we learned that new Pirate, AJ Burnett, broke his face on a bunt attempt during practice. He'll be out for 2-3 months and require surgery to correct the orbital fracture. What some of you may not remember is that VEB was watching AJ Burnett back in 2005 before he went to the Blue Jays on a 5Y/$55M deal. An Arkansas native who was rumored to want to play for the Cardinals, AJ Burnett was the earliest of sagas to play out on VEB. The signing was painfully close. Agonizingly close. VEB threads thrived to the tune of dozens of comments when thinking about it.

VEB and AJ Burnett have a history.

This is that story.

November 8, 2005: rostermania II: a.j. by lboros

there are some who believe the cardinals could/should pull a similar stunt this offseason by putting their dollars into aj burnett, relegating their obvious needs in the outfield to a lesser priority. an arkansas native, he is said to have interest in coming here, and there's no denying his appeal -- he throws hard and can make batters look helpless. over his career burnett has recorded more strikeouts (8 per 9 innings) than base hits allowed (7.5 per 9); his career era of 3.73 rates 19th among active starting pitchers. for comparison's sake, matt morris ranks 14th at 3.60, kerry wood 17th (3.67), roy halladay 18th (3.70), and mark mulder 25th (3.87).

December 1, 2005: chatter, chatter, chatter by lboros

here's what is being said at's blue jay affiliate, inside the dome:

The Cardinals had the top offer on the table as of last night. It was a four-year deal with a fifth option year. I still believe it will take five guaranteed years to sign Burnett, and in the end I expect him to get five years worth over $50mil. And let me add this, the Jays are expected to make A.J. an offer today.
wild card that could tip this in st louis' favor: burnett's wife reportedly does not like the city of toronto at all. don't know why, if it's the weather or the funky canadian coins or what, she just does not want to live there. at least, that's the word. she is from baltimore -- whose baseball team, let's not forget, originally came from st louis . . . . .

December 4, 2005: the 5th year by lboros

this morning's p-d confirms the inference i drew yesterday from Inside the Dome, viz: burnett's agent is still trying to squeeze jock for a fifth guaranteed year. another item from yesterday's post -- that the cards' offer expired last night at midnight -- appears to have been off the mark; the p-d makes it clear that the cards are prepared to wait around for another day or two.

December 4, 2005: burnett all but a done deal by lboros

Brian Walton, who still writes at and now also at, gets caught with either some crappy information or does a terrible job reporting while trying for a scoop. (Note: the same thing happened to him with Edgar Renteria in 2004.) Bernie Miklasz would shoot down the "premature reports" shortly thereafter.

December 5, 2005: please stand by by lboros

which leads me to more speculation: it makes sense to me that paul byrd's signing yesterday forced the cardinals' hand. they may have come to this calculation: if paul byrd can get $7.5m a year in this market, then burnett at $10m a year is a good deal -- such a good deal, in fact, that it's worth guaranteeing for 5 years. it had been reported that the cards were interested in byrd as a fallback, in case they didn't get burnett; they could still proceed with plan A, viz. sign byrd to replace marquis, then trade jason for an outfielder, etc etc etc. but with byrd off the market, all of the best remaining pitchers either were represented by the toxic scott boras (washburn weaver and millwood) or were of the been-there-done-that variety (matt morris). supposedly matt already has a 3 yr / $ 24m offer in hand from san francisco, and in the wake of loaiaza's signing rosenthal thinks morris's price might go even higher. so what's riskier -- a pitcher in decline at $8.5m per, or a pitcher whose best years may still lie ahead at $10m? byrd's signing may have tipped the market to the point that burnett at 5 / $50 looks like a bargain -- the best deal the cards are likely to get.

December 5, 2005: uh oh by lboros

A poster by the name of hawg wild, and I have no idea who that was/is, had been in Dallas during the winter meetings. Periodically, he would send Larry notes on the Burnett situation. They were always couched as just that, random notes of information by a semi-reliable source, but this one intimated that the Cardinals and Burnett were meeting for one final time ...

December 6, 2005: checkmate by lboros

like a lot of observers, i was slow to pick up on the significance of the 5th-year guarantee - which was really stupid, since i wrote a whole post about it over the weekend. i convinced myself that the burnett team considered toronto's offer a mere bargaining chip, something with which to wheedle a 5-year deal out of jocketty. if the cards simply wait out burnett's bluff, i believed, their 4-year-plus-vesting-5th offer will probably suffice. i wasn't the only one with that opinion, but it looks pretty foolish in retrospect.

March 6, 2006: the duncan file by lboros

This anecdote, though it doesn't really add to the AJ Burnett saga in any important way, is too good to not quote from the aftermath of the AJ Burnett saga:

baseball prospectus published its team health report for the blue jays today; not surprisingly, aj burnett was rated a high injury risk. i'm not sure what to make about this comment from the burnett blurb:

One of my favorite stories of the off-season is a scout telling me, "At some point, Burnett and Beckett will face off and Burnett will shove the ball up Beckett's ass. Beckett will crumble because he can't handle the slightest challenge. That's why I'd rather have Burnett."
i was just trying to envision at what point during the game this hypothesized ass-penetration was supposed to take place. couldn't happen during an at-bat, not in the american league; so, during the half-inning changeover then? but pitchers are such slowpokes, they're usually still fiddling around on the bench until well after the other team is off the field. . . .

i bet that scout's reports make for interesting reading.