All indications this offseason suggested A.J. Burnett was leaning toward hanging up his cleats. Not so fast.
On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Burnett remains interested in playing in the majors in 2014, but was not willing to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now, the suitors are beginning to line up.
According to Peter Gammons, the Baltimore Orioles are “all in” on making a push for the starting pitcher to join their rotation. Burnett makes his home in Maryland, so playing for a team close by could be intriguing to the veteran.
Earlier this month, MASN Sports suggested Baltimore was going to make Burnett a top priority this offseason. The team was waiting to hear whether Burnett was going to sail off into retirement or entertain offers from other clubs, and according to the report the team was beginning to look in another direction.
The Orioles are not alone in the race, though.
The Tampa Bay Rays have shown interest in the right-hander, too, perhaps as an insurance policy should the team trade away David Price before or during the season.
Along with Burnett, starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana remain the best options on the free-agent market, though both would likely command more lucrative deals over a longer span of time. The fact that Burnett has already contemplated retirement means he is most likely to want a short-team deal — probably for just the 2014 season — which makes him all the more attractive to teams.
Last year, Burnett, 37, posted a 3.30 ERA, 1.215 WHIP, and had 209 strikeouts with the Pirates. The team reached out to Burnett numerous times throughout the offseason, and earlier this month pitching coach Ray Searage said he had not heard back from him. With that, the coach assumed Burnett just was not interested in playing anymore.