Free agent starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is in discussions with multiple teams, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. One of those clubs is the Philadelphia Phillies, with the Pittsburgh Pirates also believed to be remaining in contact with their former ace.
Burnett appears to be somewhat picky about where he wants to play. He reportedly would like to stay near his home in Monkton, Md., and has also shown a preference to pitch in the National League. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Phillies appeared to be out of the running for Burnett a few days ago, but the Phillies apparently still have a chance if negotiations are ongoing.
If Burnett does not want to sign with the Phillies or the Orioles and wants to pitch close to home in the National League, his options are few. Under those parameters, the only team other than the Pirates that may have a chance is the Washington Nationals. Depending how far he would be willing to travel, the New York Mets could be an option if they are interested.
Of course, a return to the Pirates also remains a strong possibility. When Burnett was still undecided about playing in 2014, he said he would either be back with the Pirates or retire. Pittsburgh apparently believed him and refrained from making him a qualifying offer, which means it will not gain a draft pick if he signs elsewhere. The team's confidence in his return has reportedly wavered since.
If Burnett wants to sign with a team that will contend, the Phillies, who are seen as fringe contenders at best in a division with the Nationals and Braves, would likely not be his preferred club. The Pirates and Nationals are both expected to compete in 2014, as are the Orioles in the AL.
Burnett, 37, spent the last two seasons in Pittsburgh resuscitating a career that had taken a nosedive during his three years with the New York Yankees. Burnett had arguably the best season of his 15-year career in 2013, posting a 3.30 ERA over 30 starts and leading the league with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Despite those numbers, the Pirates passed over him for Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, which St. Louis won to take the series. Burnett gave up seven runs in two innings during Game 1 of that series.