Sources: Pirates lead A.J. Burnett talks


Bench Warmer
The New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates have a framework in place for a possible A.J. Burnett deal and are working through conditions in that framework, baseball sources said Sunday.

The Yankees have been engaged in talks with four teams but the Pirates have emerged as the front-runner, sources said.

One of the clubs was among teams Burnett can veto per his contract, a source said, and the right-hander was unwilling to give in on that team. It was uncertain what teams were in the bidding for Burnett beyond Pittsburgh.

As a Yankee, Burnett is 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA.

The two teams haven't agreed on the dollar figure the Yankees will eat to facilitate the trade, and they haven't agreed on the players that the Pirates will send to the Yankees.

But they have found enough common ground that Pittsburgh is now the clear front-runner.

A source familiar with the negotiations had told ESPNNewYork's Wallace Matthews on Saturday that the talks had "legs" and were "real."

But Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones, a left-handed bat whom the Yankees coveted, had been taken off the table, according to the source.

With the serious trade talks going on the Yankees have paused their pursuit of a designated hitter in the free agent market.

They are doing so, a baseball official said, because they want to see if they receive someone who could DH in a possible deal for Burnett.

If the Yankees don't receive a DH-type in a deal for Burnett or don't trade Burnett at all, then they are likely to sign one of either Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui or another free agent DH still on the market.

The Yankees are willing to deal Burnett because they don't have a place in their rotation for him. They acquired Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, leaving Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia and Burnett to fight it out for the fifth spot.

Even with top prospect Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances needing more seasoning in the minors , the Yankees think they have organization depth with Adam Warren, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell. All three could be ready if the Yankees need to call up a spot starter due to injury.

IDK... IMHO.... I thought he was done a long time ago. :(

The proposed trade between the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh that would make A.J. Burnett a Pirate is close but not quite done, and there are indications that the Yankees are pressuring Pittsburgh to sweeten its offer for the beleaguered 35-year-old right-hander.

According to sources on both sides of the deal who spoke to on the condition of anonymity, there is still optimism that a trade would be completed, perhaps as soon as this week, but there were still significant hurdles to be cleared.

And the emergence of a new player, the Cleveland Indians, in the mix complicates matters further.

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Although one source who is close to Burnett characterized a deal between the Yankees and Pirates as "imminent," a source in the Yankees organization said the Pirates would have to sweeten their offer before anything is finalized.

"I would still say it's 50-50 that the deal gets done," the team source said, "but I would not use the word 'imminent.' "

Currently, the framework of the deal has the Yankees exchanging Burnett for an undetermined number of prospects, and in return, the Pirates would agree to assume a portion of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's contract, which has two more years remaining on it.

"Ten million ain't gonna get it done," said the Yankees source, referring to the amount of Burnett's salary the Pirates have agreed to pay. "Not unless we get top-level prospects."

The Pirates' highest-rated prospect, right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole, is not among the players being offered in the deal.

"The better the players they give us, the less money they have to pay, and vice versa," said the Yankee source, who added that three other clubs were still interested in Burnett, including a West Coast club that is on Burnett's no-trade list. A source told that the Yankees took a phone call from the Indians regarding Burnett on Tuesday morning.

"Pittsburgh is still the front-runner here," the source said, "but a lot of things can happen. We could make a deal with them, we could make a deal with another club or we might not make a deal at all."

Burnett's agent, Darek Braunecker, said in a telephone interview that Burnett was prepared for any eventuality. "He wasn't blindsided by this," Braunecker said. "He knew the Yankees added pitching in the offseason and he knew there would be competition in spring training, and he was looking forward to it. He was excited about it."

Asked if Burnett would be able to resume a productive working relationship with the Yankees should the proposed deal fall apart, Braunecker said, "Unquestionably. He's a professional and he's always had a good relationship with the Yankees and (general manager) Brian Cashman. He's been around a long time and knows what the deal is."

He might be the only one.

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for

Follow Wallace Matthews on Twitter: @ESPNNYYankees
That might not be too bad for him. He has not been the same since going to the Yanks and the Pirates are coming off their most promising season in 2 decades. The Pirates also have a lot of young talented pitchers that could learn from a veteran like him.