Sox have ‘significant dialogue’ with Burnett

LAS VEGAS — Though the Red Sox have generally said that they are hesitant to extend long-term contracts to free agent pitchers, A.J. Burnett’s agent, Darek Braunecker, said this morning that the Red Sox had “significant dialogue” concerning Burnett yesterday. “Certainly more substantive than our last communication,” Braunecker said.

General manager Theo Epstein had first spoken to Braunecker Nov. 18, and conversations have progressed since that point, despite the team’s reservations about such big-time deals for starters. The team met with Braunecker yesterday, in addition to meeting with free agent lefthander CC Sabathia.

Braunecker also said that about a half-dozen clubs have “significant mutual interest” in Burnett, including one team that entered the fray in the last 72 hours and one that has essentially been eliminated from the mix.

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Burnett, who will be 32 in January, opted out of his deal with the Blue Jays this offseason in order to become a free agent, leaving two years and $24 million on the table.

The teams reported to be in on Burnett are the Braves, Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Phillies, in addition to the Red Sox. The hard-throwing righthander appears to be seeking a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $15 million per year.

ESPN reported yesterday that the Braves have offered Burnett a four-year, $60 million deal that includes a buyout and a fifth-year option. The report said that Atlanta’s overall package, including the option, is believed to be worth $75 million.

Burnett went 18-10 for the Blue Jays last season with a 4.07 ERA. He pitched a career-high 221.3 innings and led the American League in strikeouts with 231. He made his major league debut with the Marlins in 1999, when John Henry was the Florida owner.

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