Pirates and Burnitz Part Ways

Posted Oct 26, 2006

As expected the Pittsburgh Pirates have decided not to exercise their option to bring veteran outfielder Jeromy Burnitz back for a second year at $6 million. Instead, the Pirates will pay a $700,000 buyout to Burnitz, thus making the 37-year-old a free agent.

"Nothing has been finalized at this point," Pirates’ General Manager Dave Littlefield said, "But I have spoken to Burnitz's agent and told him that we will not be exercising the option for 2007.

"When we originally signed Burnitz, we felt that we wanted to sign someone to a one-year contract -- in his case with a club option -- with the idea of giving some other players time to see how they developed. Right now, our feeling is that we're going to look in another direction, whether that's internal or through a trade or maybe through another free agent."

The Pirates signed Burnitz with the hope that he would add some power from the left side at the plate, but that much needed power never materialized. Burnitz whose resume includes 315 career home runs, struggled at the plate and limped home with a .230 batting average, 16 home runs and 49 RBIs in 111 games. Burnitz became a platoon player by mid-summer, and he made just one start in the field during the final month of the season.

Burnitz saw the handwriting on the wall playing out the string late in the season.

"I've thought about the questions: Am I going to retire? Am I going to play in some capacity?" Burnitz said. "Well, first, you have to see if there's going to be some kind of offer from somebody. And, after a year like this, it's not a foregone conclusion."

The Pirates have a decision to make on left-handed reliever Damaso Marte in the coming weeks as they hold a $3 million option on him for next season with a $250,000 buyout. They are leaning toward bringing the lefty back next season.

Littlefield said that he has begun discussions with Marte's representatives.

Marte, 31, had an uneven season as he went 1-7 with a 3.70 ERA in a career-high 75 games. He had a 2.97 ERA before the All-Star break but a 4.68 mark after, though his opponents' batting average dropped from .254 in the first half to .230 in the second.

"Marte is tough against left-handers. He's had a lot of success at times in the past, and he was very effective at times in his role with us," said Littlefield.

"It's hard to find left-handed pitching. There's just not much of it out there. It's a luxury that we have. If [the contract is] something that makes sense at the right price, we'd like to have him stay. We'll see how this goes."

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