One of the Orioles’ primary free agent targets, A.J. Burnett, has decided to pitch this season, according to multiple reports.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Travis Sawchik was the first to report it.
Burnett is willing to pitch for a team other than the Pirates, according to Sawchik, and will test the open market.
The Orioles reached out to Burnett’s agent at the Winter Meetings, but turned their attention elsewhere while the right-hander contemplated retirement.
Burnett makes sense to the Orioles on a couple of levels. He lives in Monkton, which makes Baltimore an attractive destination, he’s willing to accept a one-year deal and he won’t cost a first-round pick.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette confirmed his interest in Burnett during a Dec. 13 interview.
“I’m not sure what A.J. has decided,” Duquette said. “If he’s interested in pitching close to home, this would be a good spot for him. If he decides he wants to play, we’d be interested in talking to him.”
The Orioles remain interested in Bronson Arroyo, though they seem reluctant to offer three guaranteed years. The cost for Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez remains fairly steep, and the Orioles would have to relinquish the 17th overall pick in the draft.
Burnett has made 61 starts over the past two seasons with the Pirates, logging 202 1/3 and 191 innings. He owns a 3.99 ERA in 15 major league seasons.
Burnett, 37, also has made at least 30 starts in each of the last six seasons. He went 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA last year and led the Pirates with 209 strikeouts.
Some Orioles fans are concerned about Burnett’s 5.26 and 5.15 ERAs in his final two seasons with the Yankees. He was 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA in his first season in the Bronx and posted ERAs of 3.98, 3.75 and 4.07 in three seasons with the Blue Jays.
Signing a starter to pair with Chris Tillman at the top of the rotation remains the club’s top priority.
Update: Just confirmed that the Orioles maintain interest in Burnett and figure to reach out again to his agent, Darek Braunecker, of Frontline Athlete Management.