ATLANTA — The market for A.J. Burnett last winter was limited because the 37-year-old righthander preferred to play near his Monkton, Md., home. The Phillies offered Burnett $16 million with a limited no-trade clause, and he signed in February.
Burnett has pitched to a 4.08 ERA in 21 starts, which does not make him the best available pitcher. But he will draw interest from a contender looking to bolster the back of its rotation, and two teams make sense: Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
The Orioles and Phillies engaged in "very preliminary" talks, according to a FOXSports.com report, which can mean any number of things. (The Phillies have held "very preliminary" talks with every team on every player.) For weeks, Burnett has been connected to Baltimore and Pittsburgh because they are logical destinations.
Pittsburgh may be a better fit.
The Pirates raved about Burnett's effect on their younger pitchers last season. Although his time there ended on a sour note in the postseason, he was welcomed with a standing ovation at PNC Park earlier this month. And there is a need: Gerrit Cole is on the disabled list.
A Pittsburgh scout — not on his normal coverage — watched Burnett's start Friday at Turner Field. The Pirates could use a boost to a rotation of Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Edinson Volquez, Jeff Locke and Vance Worley.
Baltimore, meanwhile, will have six starters at its disposal once Ubaldo Jimenez returns from the disabled list. That could make Pittsburgh a better fit, so long as the two sides can agree on a deal. Burnett's salary demands did not fit their budget in the winter. The Phillies could pay down his contract in exchange for a mid-level prospect.
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