Blue Jays pitcher A.J. Burnett is going to be a free agent. On Tuesday, Darek Braunecker, Burnett’s agent confirmed that Burnett will opt out of his current contract. Braunecker met with the Blue Jays at the GM Meetings in Dana Point, Calif., on Tuesday to inform the club of the pitcher’s decision.
Burnett immediately becomes arguable the top available arm behind free-agent C.C. Sabathia. Last season, Burnett set career highs with 18 wins, 34 starts, 221 1/3 innings and an American League-high 231 strikeouts. By opting out, Burnett leaves the $24 million he was owed over the next two years on the table.
Maybe the biggest part of Burnett’s 2008 season was his absence from the disabled list. Only twice in Burnett’s 10 seasons has he avoided the DL — thanks to numerous arm injuries — and both happened to be contract seasons. His only other injury-free campaign was in 2005, when he won 12 games for the Marlins and then signed a five-year, $55 million deal with Toronto.
So Burnett comes with some risk, even with the sound season he just logged. Braunecker offered a no comment when asked if the Jays had already tabled a new offer to retain the pitcher.
It’s likely that Burnett waits to see what free-agent pitchers like Derek Lowe and Ryan Dempster can get on the open market, considering Burnett could make a case to earn more. The Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles are all rumored to have interest in Burnett, who makes his offseason home outside of Baltimore.