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 Post subject: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:10 pm 
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According to the Trib's Travis Sawchik:

http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/5494 ... z2rjX6JJM2

Here's talk show host David Todd speaking with Sawchik:

http://www.970espn.com/media/podcast-da ... -24250024/

And for those who need a reminder, A.J. Burnett did this in his age 36 season in 2013:

9.85 K/9 (1st in NL), 3.16 BB/9, 56.5% ground ball rate (1st in NL), 10-11 record, 3.30 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 2.92 xFIP, 4.0 WAR -- Salary $16.5 million (Pirates paid $8 million)

In terms of value, A.J. Burnett was worth about $20 million to the Pirates in 2013 (given industry estimate of $5M/WAR). Accordingly, he was quite the deal for the team, especially with him leading the league in K/9 and ground ball rate. Even assuming a drop-off in his performance, Burnett was certainly worth the $14.1 million qualifying offer that the Pirates could have extended to him in November 2013 for the '14 campaign. Instead, the team chose not to, with Neal Huntington saying money is the reason.

I had/have a big problem with this. The Pirates are getting a lot more money from the league this year due to the new national television revenue. Whether the team is getting $28 million or $24 million or $17 million, it's getting something in that range. More importantly, the Pirates (and every other team in Major League Baseball) will be receiving that money every year for the life of the $8 billion national television deal. Oh, and if you recall, the Pirates won 94 games last year, drew more than 2.2 million fans (excluding playoffs), won the National League wild card game, and came within one game of qualifying for the National League Championship Series -- all while led by the MVP of the league (who is signed through 2018). The team is also increasing its season ticket base, and Frank Coonelly declared that its local television contract puts the Pirates in the top half of all MLB teams. So the money's there, and revenue is increasing.

That's why the qualifying offer made perfect sense. If A.J. Burnett wanted to contemplate retirement, he could have easily turned it down without batting an eyelash. Remember, the $14.1 million would be a pay CUT for Burnett (from the $16.5M he made in 2013). Plus, that would protect the Pirates (netting a supplemental first-round Rule IV draft pick if A.J. signs with another team) if Burnett took some time off but decided in January that he wanted to return (you know, what's happening right now). And if Burnett surprised everyone by accepting the qualifying offer... great! The Pirates get a pitcher who gave the team $20 million in value in 2013 for nearly $6 million less in 2014. And very good major league pitchers on one-year deals are among the best contracts you can sign. Quick question: Would you rather have Burnett for 1 year at a guaranteed $14.1 million, or Matt Garza for 4 years at a guaranteed $50 million? Easy. Burnett. How about the two pitchers older than Burnett who signed multiple-year deals. Would you rather have (a) Burnett, (b) Tim Hudson (38 years old) for 2 years at a guaranteed $23 million, or (c) Bartolo Colon (40 years old) for 2 years at a guaranteed $20 million? It's easy to pick (a) there. Hell, the Yankees signed 38-year-old Hiroki Kuroda for 1 year at $16 million.

Pirates' ownership always said that they would spend money when the team was ready to contend. Guess what. We're here. I'm not looking for the Pirates to sign Robinson Cano or Jacoby Ellsbury. I don't think that's good business for a team like the Pirates. I understand that. But $14.1 million for one year of A.J. Burnett? After he led the NL in K/9 and ground ball rate? That's a no-brainer.

If Neal Huntington spoke the truth when he said he didn't extend Burnett a qualifying offer because of money concerns, then it's not his fault. He received that message from Frank Coonelly, Bob Nutting, and the Pirates' Board of Directors. And if those guys aren't going to allow Huntington to spend money on the type of high caliber players the team needs (i.e., a low-risk, high-performing player on a one-year contract) to compete for a World Series title, my guess is that he'll move on to a team that will give him more flexibility.

Quite simply, this stinks.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:33 pm 
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Well, Kuroda has been better than Burnett.

I'd like to see AJ back, but after he started to struggle at the end of last year (anecdotally, at least), I'm thinking that it had less to do with money and more to do with the team possibly thinking that he's about to succumb to the perils of aging.

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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:48 pm 
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There are many factors at play here.

Overall though, A.J. in a Pirates uniform makes a world of sense. The alternative is understandable, just unfortunate.

The decision to move on from him will be an elephant in the room unless the Bucs make a serious postseason run.

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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:29 am 
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NSMaster56 wrote:
The decision to move on from him will be an elephant in the room unless the Bucs make a serious postseason run.


The detractors will spin it regardless of the outcome. If Burnett moves elsewhere and bombs (or even slips to a level of mediocrity that wouldn't really warrant the type of qualifying offer money), I imagine the talking point will be that it doesn't matter because of what he accomplished in the NL Central after previously struggling in the AL East (especially if it did indeed end up being the AL East with the long-standing Orioles rumor ... personally, I have serious doubts that he returns to the AL). I'm not saying that's an illogical argument to make, but I think blindly dismissing other realistic factors would be ... age/regression, reliance on two pitches, questions of motivation considering it took a month before ST to decide against retirement, etc.

Alas, some silver lining here to this whole argument that I think gets dismissed due to it being unquantifiable is the whole issue of Burnett's behavior and how that might have affected the situation, specifically re: the QO. The Pirates pretty obviously took him at his word when his future plans were said to be staying or retirement. When Burnett makes such statements, I believe that he has been around the league long enough to know that that likely doesn't mean that the Pirates are going to lock a large amount of payroll around him. I'm just saying this because I haven't really seen it said, at least here. As much as you can cast this as a FO blunder, I question if Burnett didn't have his mind made up rather early on in an attempt to gain full leverage with the retirement hypothetical which dodged a QO, and now we are where we are now. This is just some subjective speculating, I don't really feel very strongly one way or the other. I'm not typically one to play the "question a player's integrity" card, I'm a numbers-minded baseball thinker and usually stay there. But I kind of do have that impression with Burnett given the way this shook out. Or, maybe I was just as naive as the FO might have been by actually taking him at his word ... I predicted retirement.

FWIW, Burnett re-tweeted a fan's "Source this, source that, I won't believe anything until (Burnett) says it himself". That probably means nothing and is just Burnett flexing his strong personality. But I think it's at least worth mentioning considering nothing else is known besides a media soundbite.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:38 am 
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SUPERCHARGED APE wrote:
Well, Kuroda has been better than Burnett.

I'd like to see AJ back, but after he started to struggle at the end of last year (anecdotally, at least), I'm thinking that it had less to do with money and more to do with the team possibly thinking that he's about to succumb to the perils of aging.


Yep, have to pay him what he's worth in the future, not what he was worth in prior years. Don't think they thought he was worth the 14M and an offer that big risks him accepting it. His marginal value over Taillon isn't that great, and he showed signs of fatigue for most of the year (biggest ERA drop in baseball from first ~4 innings to the innings after and he lost about 2.5 MPH off his fastball at that point).

Law and Schoenfield made good points when talking about why they liked the Pirates offseason....they didn't fall into the trap of thinking that they'd made it and there's nowhere to go but up. There are/were a lot of regression flags and the team was actually slightly older than league average. This isn't a sustainable contender yet, they still have building to do.

Offer him 9, 10M or so, he can take it or leave it.

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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:47 am 
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StarlingArcher wrote:
SUPERCHARGED APE wrote:
Well, Kuroda has been better than Burnett.

I'd like to see AJ back, but after he started to struggle at the end of last year (anecdotally, at least), I'm thinking that it had less to do with money and more to do with the team possibly thinking that he's about to succumb to the perils of aging.


Yep, have to pay him what he's worth in the future, not what he was worth in prior years. Don't think they thought he was worth the 14M and an offer that big risks him accepting it. His marginal value over Taillon isn't that great, and he showed signs of fatigue for most of the year (biggest ERA drop in baseball from first ~4 innings to the innings after and he lost about 2.5 MPH off his fastball at that point).

Law and Schoenfield made good points when talking about why they liked the Pirates offseason....they didn't fall into the trap of thinking that they'd made it and there's nowhere to go but up. There are/were a lot of regression flags and the team was actually slightly older than league average. This isn't a sustainable contender yet, they still have building to do.

Offer him 9, 10M or so, he can take it or leave it.


Zero risk in him accepting a QO. He would never accept a deal that would permit the team to trade him anywhere at anytime. Even if the Bucs have no interest in the player they blundered by costing themselves a chance at a draft pick.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:13 am 
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He wouldn't have to worry about being moved if he accepted the QO. He either outperforms projections and is untradeable or he underperforms and is on a contract the Pirates can't move. So he'd either stick in the rotation or be cut. With expiring contracts having no value like the NBA, it's tough.

Most projections have him between 2 and 2.5 WAR. That's not 14.1M territory, especially when the next highest projected pitcher is he guy he's blocking (Taillon).

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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:21 am 
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StarlingArcher wrote:
Yep, have to pay him what he's worth in the future, not what he was worth in prior years.


I certainly agree with this. And don't forget, Burnett's 2013 was significantly better than his 2012. Burnett produced 4.0 WAR and led the NL in two important pitching categories. In 2012, he produced 3.0 WAR despite stumbling badly down the stretch. So it's not like Burnett is in decline. He actually IMPROVED from age 35 to age 36.

StarlingArcher wrote:
Don't think they thought he was worth the 14M and an offer that big risks him accepting it. His marginal value over Taillon isn't that great, and he showed signs of fatigue for most of the year (biggest ERA drop in baseball from first ~4 innings to the innings after and he lost about 2.5 MPH off his fastball at that point).


Who cares? Burnett was so dominant in the first 4 innings that his overall value was incredibly high. Also, that only means that Hurdle should give him a quicker hook, not that he isn't "worth the 14M." Most pitchers do worse during the third and fourth times through an opponent's lineup.

Regardless, Burnett produced 4.0 WAR in 2013 and 3.0 WAR in 2012. To be "worth" the $14 million, he'd have to produce about 2.8 WAR in 2014. You honestly believe A.J. Burnett wouldn't put up at least 2.8 WAR for the Pirates in 2014? I sure do. He's average 3.5 WAR the last two years in Pittsburgh and he's coming off of a great year. Plus, he's healthy.

StarlingArcher wrote:
Law and Schoenfield made good points when talking about why they liked the Pirates offseason....they didn't fall into the trap of thinking that they'd made it and there's nowhere to go but up. There are/were a lot of regression flags and the team was actually slightly older than league average. This isn't a sustainable contender yet, they still have building to do.


Of course. That means you (1) keep your top-end prospects, and (2) avoid signing long-term deals with free agents. The Pirates did both of those things. But neither of those things has ANYTHING to do with A.J. Burnett. The Pirates could have retained him on a one-year deal -- which is low-risk and doesn't tie up payroll for future years -- and made sure that the team would be compensated if he left. They failed to do that. Why?

As I note above, I blame ownership. I have a feeling that Huntington would have immediately offered Burnett a QO if it was entirely up to him. He knows the value of Burnett's strikeouts and ground ball rate.

StarlingArcher wrote:
Offer him 9, 10M or so, he can take it or leave it.


If you're going to give Edinson Volquez $5 million guaranteed, then you can afford $14.1 million for A.J. Burnett. Burnett was ten times the pitcher Volquez was last year (literally -- Burnett produced 4.0 WAR while Volquez produced 0.4 WAR).

Finally, given his uncertainty about returning, his two great seasons in Pittsburgh, and his desire to control his own professional destiny, I'd say it was FAR more likely that A.J. Burnett would have declined the qualifying offer. And we can all agree that would put the Pirates in a better situation today, both in terms of negotiating a deal with Burnett and cooling potential suitors.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:27 am 
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StarlingArcher wrote:
He wouldn't have to worry about being moved if he accepted the QO. He either outperforms projections and is untradeable or he underperforms and is on a contract the Pirates can't move. So he'd either stick in the rotation or be cut. With expiring contracts having no value like the NBA, it's tough.


You're insane. If Burnett performed great in 2014 and the Pirates fell out of contention before the trading deadline, you can bet your sweet a$$ that Huntington would try to trade him to a contender. There would be plenty of teams willing to give up something for Burnett, particularly given that they wouldn't have to acquire a long-term contract. Think, my friend.

StarlingArcher wrote:
Most projections have him between 2 and 2.5 WAR. That's not 14.1M territory, especially when the next highest projected pitcher is he guy he's blocking (Taillon).


Projections had him at 2 or so WAR in 2013. He produced 4.0. They had him at under 1.5 in 2012. He produced 3.0.

He's performed very well in Pittsburgh and he improved his performance from 2012 to 2013. There is nothing to indicate that he can't be as effective as he's been the last two years and crank out a 3.5 WAR season -- in which case $14.1 million is underpaying him.

Regardless, who cares if he's over- or underpaid? It's one season and the Pirates absolutely have the money. A one-year deal for a pitcher is the very best kind of deal you can sign.

Finally, no one pitcher is blocking Taillon. You could have said that Burnett was blocking Cole last year. But guess what... Rodriguez got hurt. The Pirates have a bunch of starters who didn't pitch the entire 2013 season. It's foolish to think they're all going to log 200+ innings. Between injury and ineffectiveness, there will be NO ONE blocking Taillon if he's dealing in AAA and ready to knock on the door of The Show. Pitching depth is incredibly important, and I'd MUCH rather have A.J. Burnett for $14.1 million than Edinson Volquez for $5 million. Especially on a contending team.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:05 am 
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Projections I've seen for Burnett have him in the 2.5 - 3.5 range. Steamer projects him at 3.4. Regardless, pitchers in this market have been getting more than $6M per WAR.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:14 am 
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I thought the Pirates should have made the QO, but the Pirates obviously felt otherwise. Once they offered 8.5 or whatever it was, I knew Burnett would be pitching for another team.

Why would he retire when he's worth about 15 mil per year? The answer is he wouldn't. And why would he accept 8.5 when he's worth about 15 mil per year? Again, the answer is he wouldn't.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:43 am 
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Again, folks are great at spending others money. NH has said, repeatedly, that teams that invest 18 -20 % of payroll in a single player, don't end up very well. Pirates are not the Yankees and their payroll is approaching what their market should bear (closing in on $80M). Other markets, that QO is not 20% of payroll, in Pittsburgh, it is.

You have a plan, you stick with the plan. You don't f**k with it because the Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Rangers skew the league average payrolls.

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:27 am 
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ZelieMike wrote:
Again, folks are great at spending others money. NH has said, repeatedly, that teams that invest 18 -20 % of payroll in a single player, don't end up very well.

ZM


Did he say anything about teams that have $20+ million in available resources to better their team but sit on it?


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:03 pm 
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And you know this number, how?

SA is right. You don't pay a guy (if your smart) for what he did, but what you think he will do. On this staff, at his age, I see Burnett at best as the 3, more likely, the 4.

So, do YOU pay our 3 or 4 $14 mil?

I sure don't.

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:38 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:
And you know this number, how?

SA is right. You don't pay a guy (if your smart) for what he did, but what you think he will do. On this staff, at his age, I see Burnett at best as the 3, more likely, the 4.

So, do YOU pay our 3 or 4 $14 mil?

I sure don't.

ZM


His WAR went up from 2012 to 2013...but just because he is now 36 he will definitely get worse? I would of given him the qualifying offer for sure.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:08 pm 
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So you pay him for the past.

He is going to be 38 this year, and has missed significant time the last two years.

Again, do you pay your No. 4 pitcher 20% of payroll?

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:15 pm 
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People are always going to want to bring AJ back until he bombs. And at that point, we're stuck on a bad contract with no financial flexibility to fix it mid-season. The wheels are going to fall off eventually.

The Pirates can't be the one holding the bag when it happens.

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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:17 pm 
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And his WAR dropped between 2009 and 2010. Like others have said, past performance doesn't guarantee future performance.

I like AJ too but he fit into the plan because the Pirates paid him $5MM in 2012 and $8MM in 2013. Now if you consider the fact that they're paying Wandy $13MM this year (cheap Nuttings!) you HAVE to think that NH is worried about putting $25-$30MM into two 35+ year old pitchers.

I agree that AJ COULD be a contributor to the 2014 team but I totally understand why they wouldn't put a third of their payroll into a couple of guys who are 35+. That's a lot of payroll for two guys who could flame out.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:20 pm 
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StarlingArcher wrote:
And at that point, we're stuck on a bad contract with no financial flexibility to fix it mid-season.


Everyone is looking at AJ in a vacuum too. They already potentially have one of those contracts with Wandy.


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 Post subject: Re: A.J. Burnett Will Pitch in 2014
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:10 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:
And you know this number, how?

SA is right. You don't pay a guy (if your smart) for what he did, but what you think he will do. On this staff, at his age, I see Burnett at best as the 3, more likely, the 4.

So, do YOU pay our 3 or 4 $14 mil?

I sure don't.

ZM


He led the National League in K/9 and ground ball rate last year. His skills are not deteriorating. He's healthy. He put up 3.0 and 4.0 WAR the last two years.

Let's say he's only able to put up 2.5 WAR in 2014 -- that's still incredibly valuable to a team like the Pirates that needs to get every win it can to qualify for the post-season. Is it worth $14.1 million? Absolutely, if it gets you to the playoffs. Where A.J. Burnett fits in the rotation is meaningless -- what matters is how he performs within the rotation.

The Pirates gave a guaranteed $5 million to Edinson Volquez, who put up a 0.4 WAR in 2013 (in a pitchers' park, no less) and has had severe control problems throughout his career. Would you rather have Volquez at $5 million or Burnett at $14.1 million? Who brings more "value" at their respective price?

People making excuses for the Pirates failing to extend a qualifying offer to Burnett are grasping at straws. It's actually likely that he would have declined the QO, given that he wanted to take time off to consider retirement, that he was primarily interested only in returning to the Pirates, and that the $14.1 million would actually be a pay cut and less than he's worth given his recent performance (especially considering the contracts handed out to Tim Hudson and Bartolo Colon). On the open market, there's no doubt a team would (and may) consider offering Burnett something in the range of two years at $25 million or more.

Bucco blogger Brian McElhinney had a very reasonable take on the situation:

http://raisethejollyroger.com/2014/01/b ... but-where/

As you will recall (or surely have been reminded by now), Burnett previously stated he was either returning to the Pirates or retiring. Of course, he also said he would take “a week or so” to make a decision, and that was several months ago. It certainly looks like the Pirates tried to use that statement as leverage and bring him back at a discount, and so far that obviously hasn’t worked. They opted not to give him a 1-year, $14 million qualifying offer that would have given them a draft pick if he turned it down and signed elsewhere. That offer would have also hurt his value to other teams, driving down his price if he had turned it down. I thought it was a mistake to take that chance at the time, for that reason, and because Burnett’s current level of production is well-worth $14 million…and because that shouldn’t have been too much for the Pirates to pay. If he does sign elsewhere, that will be a blown opportunity on the Bucs’ part.

If that ends up being the case, the Bucs made a big mistake, but as of now it’s still correctable. The Pirates may have been thinking they were going to use that money elsewhere this offseason, but that hasn’t happened and there isn’t much left to spend it on. There’s no reason to try and pinch pennies to save up for an answer at first base – as much as I’d like one and think the Bucs need one, it looks like they are going to take their chances with Gaby Sanchez and Andrew Lambo. Burnett – last year’s NL leader in strikeout rate and ground ball rate – is the best addition the Pirates can make at this point, and even though he is opening himself up to other teams, the reports don’t indicate that he’s turned the Bucs away. There is still a possibility – maybe a good one – that this is all resolved and he signs with the Pirates, and this whole saga will turn in to a distant memory. Neal Huntington and company should be working very hard to make that happen. They should have the money to do it.


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