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Next Braves Target: A.J. Burnett

The Braves added one of the two starters GM Frank Wren said the team needed in an offseason makeover. Now they may be stepping up the pressure to get the second man they covet at the top of their rotation: free agent former Blue Jay A.J. Burnett.

According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the Braves are on the verge of offering a fifth guaranteed year to Burnett, who has openly campaigned for a five-year contract. The Braves are one of six teams in negotiations with the talented by injury prone starter, with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles and Nationals as the other five clubs jockeying for his services. Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman also says that the Braves are likely the team willing to go up to a five-year deal to get Burnett, whose agent, Darek Braunecker, has said his client will have at least one five-year contract offer if he wants it.

Adding Burnett would make Atlanta's rotation incredibly intriguing, with top front-end talent but probably more injury concerns than any other in baseball. Think about it: When was the last time, before 2007, that Burnett, impending Atlanta acquisition Javier Vazquez and incumbent No. 1 starter Tim Hudson finished a healthy season at the same time? Go ahead, try and figure it out. I couldn't.

Still, the allure of a Hudson-Burnett-Vazquez-Jair Jurrjens front four is inescapable, particularly in the NL East. When healthy, that would easily give Atlanta the top rotation in the division on paper.

Of course, Wren will have to outlay a lot of paper to make that happen, and the two local teams may have a lot to say about whether Burnett actually takes Atlanta up on its offer. The Nationals and Orioles are the closest two teams to Burnett's winter home in the Maryland countryside (yes, he really does live in the woods off I-95 when he's not playing baseball), and if either went up to five years, there's every reason to believe they could swoop in and snatch the pitcher up as a rotation-making ace. Of course, any potential deal with the Nats or Orioles would be just as fraught with injury concern, but it would give both teams a marquee starter at the top of the rotation, and there's something to be said for that ... for both teams.

By Cameron Smith  |  December 3, 2008; 4:16 PM ET
Categories:  Blue Jays , Nationals , Orioles , Red Sox , Yankees  
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A Hudson-Burnett-Vazquez-Jair Jurrjens front four would be very formidable. What are the chances of John Smoltz coming back to Atlanta next season? I don't recall seeing anything about him retiring and with that set of starters, he may even want to come back in the closer's role again!

Posted by: erocks33 | December 3, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

If only Hudson will actually pitch this year....remember he's out until at least August. So right now the Braves rotation isn't much better. If they sign Burnett is will be a decent front 3 to their rotation but they are going to have to bring back Smoltzy in order to be formidable again. And if they do, he won't be able to pitch every 5 days for the entire season. He'll be a once every 2 weeks kind of starter until his shoulder regains strength. In my mind the Braves still have a lot of work to do...mainly getting a bat to put up some runs.

Posted by: redskins2448 | December 3, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

In many ways, Burnett is the logical replacement for Mike Hampton.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 3, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

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