With A.J. Burnett deciding not only to return to play in 2014 but to open himself up to bids from teams other than the Pittsburgh Pirates, the market for free-agent pitchers has changed yet again. Burnett might be a bit older than guys like Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, but he's also not going to ask for a long-term contract. Teams wanting to minimize their overall commitments can pursue Burnett as an upgrade without having to offer up a three- or four-year deal.
Of course, it wasn't so long ago that there was no demand for Burnett. After a couple of miserable seasons in New York -- if you judge a pitcher by ERA, anyway -- the Yankees just wanted to be done with Burnett, and paid the Pirates to take him off their hands. Pittsburgh assumed just $13 million of the $33 million Burnett had remaining on his contract, and he proceeded to give them two excellent years for bargain prices.
So instead of bidding up an aging Burnett who has re-established his market value, why not look for the next A.J. Burnett, a pitcher at the low point of his value with a contract that could be assumed in lieu of signing any of the free agents on the market?
Here are three options for pitchers who might have a Burnett-like career rejuvenation still left in them.
Dempster's first year in Boston didn't go so well, as he posted his highest walk rate since 2007 and the highest home run rate of his entire career. That's not a great combination, and Dempster ended up losing his spot in the Red Sox rotation after the team acquired Jake Peavy at the trade deadline. With spring training just a few weeks away, Dempster is on the outside looking in, and his main role with the Red Sox is to provide depth in case one of the starting five get hurt.