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Burnett worth exploring

Posted by Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff  November 5, 2008 02:04 PM

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DANA POINT, Calif. - Don't get crazy about free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett joining the Red Sox, but he's a name the Boston front office will likely explore for three reasons:.

One, the Yankees are after him. Two, he was a personal favorite of Sox owner John Henry when he owned the Florida Marlins. Three, he's good.

One thing Theo Epstein has stressed, however, is that he won't be throwing around what the Sox perceive as silly money. Burnett has forfeited the two final years of his contract at $24 million. While he had an outstanding year, would the Sox be willing to tack on three years at $50 million or higher? Probably not.

The Sox have said that in a perfect world they would add another veteran starter, but Epstein is careful about breaking the bank on long-term pitcher contracts. He has enough evidence that they're not a good idea.

Burnett lives in the Baltimore area, but the Orioles may not be in position financially to get into the hunt deep enough. The Washington Nationals may, however, given that they need to attract a big name or two to put some much-needed fannies in the seats at their new ballpark.

Burnett is getting plenty of action and there'll no shortage of teams who will put their best offer forward. But the Sox will likely draw the line on a commitment of more than three years.

In Epstein's meetings with agent Scott Boras today, Derek Lowe's name is bound to come up as well. Lowe has made it clear to this reporter that Boston would be his No. 1 choice. The Red Sox might hesitate to give him the money or the contract length he wants. Yet Lowe, who lives in Fort Myers, Fla., might -- and I emphasize might -- be willing to take a little less to return to Boston.

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