Blue Jays Could Be a Long-Shot at Signing AJ Burnett


Jul 25, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) throws during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve heard for countless weeks that the Toronto Blue Jays would be involved with the bidding for Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. However, after weeks of rumors there has been little concrete news that either is close to signing, so the Blue Jays continue to look at other options.

So it comes as no surprise that multiple outlets are tying the Blue Jays to free agent A.J. Burnett.

Burnett, 37-years-old, was said to be leaning toward retirement. However, it looks to have been a clever ploy by the right-hander, as he announced last week that he was looking to return for another go around. He’s now positioned himself as one of the most attractive pitchers on the market at a time when teams are desperate to get things wrapped up.

Why is he an attractive option?

Burnett is said to only be looking for a two-year deal, which keeps a team like the Blue Jays in the market because they don’t want to commit long-term dollars to a question mark. Burnett also lacks a qualifying offer, meaning that a team wouldn’t need to surrender a draft pick to sign him. The Blue Jays, with two protected first round picks, would have to surrender a second round pick, but given the option to keep it, I’m sure they would choose to.

Statistically speaking, Burnett is also coming off of a fantastic season. In 191 innings of work last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Burnett put up a 3.30 ERA, a 2.92 xFIP, and a 9.85 K/9 ratio. Burnett’s 56.5% ground-ball rate was second in all of baseball in 2013, his previously mention K/9 was fourth, and his HR/9 ratio of 0.52 tied for fifth.

That all said, the competition for Burnett would be stiff. The Maryland native is said to want to pitch closer to home, and you don’t get much closer than Baltimore. The Orioles, who have surprisingly done less than the Blue Jays, are said to be “all-in” on Burnett, but Peter Gammons isn’t so sure that the Orioles are willing to invest what it will take to sign him. The Rays and Phillies are also said to be interested.

However, Gammons notes that Burnett was very fond of his time in Toronto, and the Blue Jays could benefit from adding him. However, Burnett also left on a sour note, opting out of his deal with the Blue Jays after the 2008 season to sign a lucrative deal with the Yankees. But in a winter of limited options and a closing window of time, the team may be willing to let bygones be bygones.

Burnett would solidify the top of the rotation, giving the team a power arm to couple with Brandon Morrow, and help change the pace from R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. It would also give the Blue Jays some needed flexibility with their other available starting candidates, allowing prospects like Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin, and Drew Hutchison to start the year in Triple-A, flex guys like Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers to contribute out of the bullpen, and J.A. Happ to get first crack at the fifth spot.

But all depends on Burnett, and whether he wants to come back to Toronto. Does he?