While they're leaving the door open to a possible return, Pirates' team president Frank Coonelly says the club does not expect A.J. Burnett to return to their rotation for the 2014 season, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. The 37-year-old Burnett is reportedly considering retirement, but has also been loosely connected to the Orioles and Phillies, also per Crasnick.
The Pirates did not extend Burnett a $14.1 million qualifying offer after the 2013 season under the assumption that he would return to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal or would choose to retire.
After two disappointing years in 2010 and 2011 for the Yankees, Burnett underwent a career renaissance over the last two seasons in Pittsburgh culminating in a career best strikeout percentage and the second lowest walk rate of his career in 2013. He turned himself into an extreme ground ball pitcher by using his sinker more often, but was able to do so without sacrificing punch-outs.
He has also been quite durable in recent years, making at least 30 starts in each of the last six seasons, so Burnett's decision is not likely based on his ability make it through another season. If Burnett does not return, the Pirates will likely feature a rotation that includes Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Edison Volquez, and Wandy Rodriguez, assuming they don't make any further offseason moves. While it is unlikely, the Pirates would have the pieces to land an elite starter like David Price on the trade market if they decide to pursue a significant upgrade in the wake of losing Burnett.