The Yankees have been engaged in talks with four teams but the Pirates have emerged as the front-runner, sources said. Sources said that if a trade is agreed to the commissioner's office will have to approve the deal because of the large amount of money that will exchange hands.
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.
The Pirates and Yankees began their discussions with lots of common ground because New York wants to move Burnett, who is owed $33 million for the next two seasons, and Pittsburgh has been looking for a veteran starter who can provide innings.
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.
Buster Olney is a senior MLB writer for ESPN The Magazine. Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork.com.