Mariners chase Burnett

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

BOSTON -- There is a new entrant into the hunt for free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett.

And this team may be more of a threat to the Blue Jays, who are pursuing Burnett, than either the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.

The Seattle Mariners have made pitching a priority and will pursue Burnett, the best available, despite the fact he was sent packing -- told to go home -- by the Florida Marlins the final week of the season.

Teams predict that Burnett will shy away from signing with the large market Yankees or Red Sox, as long as a contract offer is comparable.

The Mariners are guessing the asking price for Burnett will be $65 million US for five years. That's $13 million up from early September when the guessing was he would get $10-to-$11 million for four years.

The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals also are interested, despite the fact Burnett ripped manager Jack McKeon, Marlins coaches and players after his final start. The Marlins aren't interested in signing him.

"You know that stuff he said at the end of the year and how he knocked his teammates and the whole organization?" asked on interested executive the other day. "Well, we've already forgotten it.

"It won't affect interest whatsoever. We don't care if he's 49-49 lifetime, he's the best arm out there."

There are not a lot of front-line starters heading into free agency. Besides Burnett, there's lefty Jarrod Washburn of the Los Angeles Angels, Kevin Millwood of the Philadelphia Phillies and Matt Morris of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Right-hander Jason Schmidt could enter the market if the San Francisco Giants do not to pick up his option.

Kenny Rogers of the Texas Rangers and Jeff Suppan of St. Louis could be fall-back positions.


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