Note: This is part of a series looking at some external and internal possibilities for the starting pitching rotation to replace Derek Holland, as the lefty is expected to miss the first half of the season.
Today's pitcher: A.J. Burnett
Word broke Tuesday that Burnett wants to pitch in 2014 after initially saying in October that he'd either pitch with the Pittsburgh Pirates or retire.
Now, the 37-year-old is ready to survey the market and try to find a home for 2014. The Rangers have some interest in the right-hander, and reports indicate the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies are among a host of potential suitors.
With Holland likely out until midseason, the Rangers would like to take a mixture of internal and external candidates into spring to compete not only for Holland's job, but to add starting pitching depth to the club.
Burnett was 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA last season and led the Pirates in innings pitched with 191. He also had a team-high 209 strikeouts. He led all National League qualifiers with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. It was the second consecutive solid season for Burnett since leaving the New York Yankees. Burnett was 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 2012 as he made 31 starts and pitched 202⅓ innings, his highest total since the 2009 season. His fielding independent pitching (FIP) the past two seasons is among the top 15 in the league.
Why he makes sense: The Rangers have a lot of young arms that they aren't completely certain about in the wake of Holland's injury. Burnett has shown that he can still eat up innings. In fact, he has made at least 30 starts in each of the past six seasons. He struggled with a 4.79 ERA in three seasons in New York but found his form again in Pittsburgh.
Burnett is a ground-ball machine, posting a 2.62 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio, the best in the NL and second in the big leagues to only Alex Cobb. With a very good Rangers infield, that would certainly make Burnett suited to Texas.
The other plus is that Burnett might consider a one-year deal -- possibly loaded with incentives -- which is just the type of contract the Rangers would want as Holland continues to rehab.
Why he doesn't make sense: The bidding could get interesting for Burnett if more teams get involved. Reports suggest the Phillies, Orioles and even the Pirates are interested, and other teams could jump in as well.
Bottom line: This makes a ton of sense if the contract terms stay reasonable. Burnett would give the club innings and a veteran presence on an otherwise young staff. And he was just on a playoff team, which wouldn't hurt, either. He could help this pitching staff.