A.J. Burnett has decided to return for the 2014 season after flirting with the possibility of retirement this offseason, according to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Most noteworthy, Burnett is open to playing for a team other than the Pittsburgh Pirates, his club in 2013. Earlier this winter, reports surfaced that Burnett was mulling retirement and would only consider coming back to play for Pittsburgh.
Now that this is no longer the case, Burnett will surely have many suitors. He finished his 2013 campaign with a 3.30 ERA and 209 strikeouts in 191 innings pitched. It was Burnett's second straight solid season after moving to the Pirates from the Yankees, and despite the fact he is 37 years old, the right-hander will attract attention from a number of teams still looking for starting pitching.
In many ways, Burnett will be a more attractive option for MLB teams than other top starters like Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez because he likely won't be looking for a multi-year commitment and also doesn't have any draft pick compensation attached to him. The Pirates chose not to extend the 15-year veteran a qualifying offer, as they thought he would choose to either retire or return to Pittsburgh.
Since Burnett lives in the Baltimore area, some speculation arose that the Orioles might look to pursue him, and there is no doubt Burnett would be a huge upgrade to the team's staff. Baltimore's rotation was among the worst in the AL last season, finishing with a 4.20 ERA, the sixth-highest in the league. Burnett would represent the type of top arm the Orioles desperately need to compete in the AL East, and given his relative affordability compared with other notable free agent starters, he could be a good fit.
Other teams in the mix for Burnett include the Pirates, who have expressed an interest in bringing him back, and squads like the Blue Jays or even the Angels, who could use an upgrade in their rotation.
Burnett's durability (he has thrown at least 185 innings dating back to 2008) and recent track record make him an intriguing free agent option. And with teams still searching for quality starters, there is little doubt that Burnett will be receiving interest from a number of franchises in the days ahead.