Thirty-seven year old pitcher A.J. Burnett will continue to pitch in 2014, reports Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Sawchik noted that Burnett is willing to pitch for another team besides the Pirates.
The news is coming in a timely manner as baseball gets closer to beginning Spring Training. With many of the top free agents still on the market, Burnett adds yet another option for teams looking for starters. It's interesting that Burnett would decide to pitch after the Pirates have not offered Burnett the contract he was looking for. Many speculated that it was time for retirement for the Arkansas native.
Burnett has reportedly decided to give it another go. And who could blame him? The former Mets 8th round selection (1995) pitched brilliantly in 2013, going 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA in 30 starts for the Pirates. He showed few, if any, signs of age. He was able to keep the ball on the ground (56.5 percent ground-ball rate) and still strike out an immense amount of hitters (9.85 K/9) while walking batters at a relatively low rate (3.16 BB/9). These numbers should really help Burnett's stock on the free agent market, regardless of his age.
Earlier in the offseason, Burnett was willing to play for teams within a close proximity of his Maryland home. It's unknown if that still holds true, but if it did, Burnett's options could be narrowed to the Phillies and Orioles, with the Orioles being the favorite to land the pitcher. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun believes that Burnett "would be at the top of the club's [Orioles'] list." Sawchik noted that the Phillies have also expressed interest.
Consider the Rangers to be a dark horse in the Burnett race, due to the loss of pitcher Derek Holland just a few weeks ago. Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas reported that the Rangers have some interest in Burnett.
Burnett joins a starting pitching market that includes Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Bronson Arroyo. Expect all of them to sign quickly, as Spring Training is right around the corner.