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BRAVES: 6 clubs 'fully engaged' with Burnett


BRAVES: 6 clubs 'fully engaged' with Burnett
After pulling out of stalled trade talks for San Diego ace Jake Peavy, the Braves have turned their attention to hard-throwing Toronto Blue Jays free agent A.J. Burnett.

His agent said the Braves are among six teams "fully engaged" in negotiations for Burnett, who had a career-best 18-10 record with a 4.07 ERA in 2008. He led the American League with 231 strikeouts in 221 1/3 innings.

Four front-runners for the 31-year-old right-hander's services are from the American League East: the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays. The Braves and Phillies are the others.

"They're right in the mix," Burnett's agent, Darek Braunecker, said of the Braves, who appeal to Burnett in part because the onetime Florida Marlins pitcher thinks he could thrive in a return to the National League.

"It's a place he's always enjoyed," Braunecker said. "He loves Bobby Cox, respects the hell out of him, and he's pretty close with Chipper [Jones]. He knows what they have, what opportunities they have."

Burnett wants a five-year deal, probably worth at least $15 million annually. That would involve significant risk for any team, given his past elbow and shoulder issues and the fact he never won more than 12 games until 2008.

He became a free agent after opting out of the remaining two years and $24 million on his Toronto contract, buoyed by his breakthrough season.

The Braves and others seem sufficiently confident Burnett has turned a corner in his career, injury-wise. That, plus a dearth of available ace pitchers, makes it necessary to take the risk.

Burnett has had no serious injury since his Tommy John ligament-transplant elbow surgery in 2004.

Braunecker and Braves general manager Frank Wren had a discussion Friday, but the agent wouldn't say if an offer was made. He said one team has a five-year proposal for Burnett on the table.

The New York Post reported last week that the Yankees would offer him a five-year, $80 million contract, but the New York Daily News reported the Yankees probably wouldn't guarantee a fifth year.

The Braves haven't given such a long contract to a pitcher since Greg Maddux signed a five-year, $57.5 million deal in 1998. Tim Hudson got a four-year, $47 million extension after coming from Oakland in a December 2005 trade.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 26, 2008

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