A.J. Burnett will return in 2014. We already knew that for a few days now , but what we don’t know at this point is what team he will be playing for. On Wednesday, the main teams that were involved with Burnett were the Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Texas Rangers have been linked to Burnett as well, but barely. Today, there’s a new team in the race.
Peter Gammons provided a few interesting bits of Burnett information on Thursday morning. First, he heard that the Orioles are “all-in” on signing Burnett. The Pirates appear to be in, but not even in knee-deep at this time. The Phillies and Rangers seem to be on the outside looking in.
Even more important is that Gammons hears that the Tampa Bay Rays are also trying to sign Burnett. This comes as very bad news for the Pirates. If the Rays do end up signing Burnett, which seems very unlikely, the Bucs won’t be able to use the small-market excuse.
The Rays are in a worse market than the Pirates. Even though they have had a winning team for over the last five years, the fans in Tampa Bay still don’t show up to games at a good rate. When the Pirates were winning last year and in the first half of the two seasons prior to 2013, the fans showed up to games. They did their part.
Based on what the baseball insiders are hearing, it really does seem like the Orioles are the front-runners. I still think Burnett would return to the Pirates if they offer anything close to the highest bid, but they seem unwilling to budge from their reported $8.5 million offer.