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Dunlap: What If A.J. Can't Walk Away?




If this keeps up with A.J. Burnett, those might just be the chants coming from Pirates fans in a few months.

Forget an ending with this 2015 victory lap, how about a second encore in 2016?

Could it come to that? Who knows?

If A.J. Burnett keeps pitching even remotely close to the way he has through his first seven starts, I know I'd want to see what he could do on another one-year contract in 2016.

Burnett, 38, has been lights-out through this point in the season --- his self-proclaimed last in baseball --- as he holds a 1.60 ERA and has yet to give up more than two runs in any start.

That's not just good.

That's top-of-the-rotation stuff from a guy who is back in Pittsburgh for a second go-round on a one-year, $8.5 million contract with designs on riding off into the sunset (for good) when this season comes to a close.

But how could a competitor like Burnett --- and we all know how much vigor this guy has within him --- go out after he were to construct a masterful season?

Make no mistake, there is a long, long, long, long way to go in this 2015 season and this is strictly a hypothetical, but doesn't he at least have to think about one more season (and the Pirates have to show interest) if Burnett pitches anywhere like this for the remainder of the summer? I'd say so.

To me, in knowing Burnett a little bit, he is the kind of guy who just might think twice; he is the kind of guy with that fiery attitude who might still pitch if he thinks he has more in the tank.

He's also a really complex man, too --- one who has designs right now on stepping as hard on the gas as he can this season and then getting out of this game that has given him so much no matter what 2015 yields.

Burnett, to be sure, is a tough guy to read.

And that's the other way to look at all of this. Burnett is a man who has made about $144 million in his career and has already walked away from more money --- doing so to come back to Pittsburgh for this 2015 season.

That said, he's also a guy who has been on record, multiple times, saying that after this season he wants a real opportunity to see his two sons grow up.

Such a tack in life is commendable and retiring to that big plot of land he has in Maryland with trucks upon trucks of cash seems like it has positively no bad qualities.

Two ways to look at it, I guess is the gist of all this.

If Burnett continues to have a great 2015, he can get out of this game knowing he did so on top, knowing he exited not some broken down hero, but whilst still being a force.

Or, if this stellar 2015 continues, he might have to stop for a moment and say to himself, "heck, I think I might be able to still do this" and contemplate inking another deal.

All that said, it sure would be interesting if it got to a point where Burnett was good enough --- all summer --- where such a scenario played out over the autumn and winter.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 "The Fan." You can e-mail him at Check out his bio here.

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