With A.J. Burnett announcing today that he still intends to pitch in 2014, suitors have already begun popping up.
Chief among those is the Baltimore Orioles, who had let it be known publicly that the right-hander was a priority target of theirs, even before knowing whether he was going to pitch or not. Baltimore is speculated to be the front-runners for Burnett’s services by those who believe he will sign based on location. Burnett makes his home in Monkton, Maryland which is only thirty minutes away from Orioles’ Park at Camden Yards. Burnett would be able to provide leadership and experience to a relatively inexperienced pitching staff.
Citizen’s Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies isn’t that much further from Monkton, at a little over an hour and a half, and there are some that would suggest that Burnett’s abilities would work better in the National League. With the Phillies’ pitching staff, he would join a list of grizzled veterans in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels who have championship experience.
The Rangers are a bit more of a long shot to land the 37-year old, but the interest – and the money – is there, especially after losing Derek Holland for at least half of the season due to micro-fracture surgery. The Rangers have built a team specially suited with a strong infield, designed to cater to ground ball pitchers, of which Burnett is one of the best. Amongst qualifying pitchers, A.J. ranked second in ground ball ratio in all of Major League Baseball.
Burnett’s former team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, have already made plans to go to Spring Training, but that doesn’t necessarily rule them out. Team President Frank Coonelly spoke with ESPN.com about his former ace.
We’d love to have A.J. back, but right now we’ve turned the page and we’re heading to Bradenton [Florida] thinking he’s not going to be with us. But if he surprises us and calls up tomorrow and says he wants to pitch again, we’d love to have him.
The starting pitching market is packed with talent and Burnett just adds to that. Many expect the dominoes to start falling very soon, perhaps as early as tomorrow.