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Pirates will shop while starting pitcher Burnett makes his decision

| Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers during the first inning against the Cardinals on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Two months after their season ended, the Pirates still are waiting for right-hander A.J. Burnett to decide whether he will retire.

However, Burnett's indecision won't keep the Pirates stuck in neutral during MLB's annual winter meetings.

Monday, a source close to free agent Bronson Arroyo said the veteran righty would welcome a chance to rejoin the Pirates, who drafted him in 1995 and later released him. Terry Bross, Arroyo's agent, was scheduled to speak with the Pirates at the Walt Disney World Swan hotel.

The Minnesota Twins also are very interested in Arroyo. Bross met with the Twins on Monday, and Fox Sports reported there was “momentum” in talks between the sides.

Arroyo has targeted a three-year contract but might be willing to settle for a two-year deal with an option. He made $16.4 million this past season with the Cincinnati Reds.

If Arroyo goes elsewhere, the Pirates still have options, including some beyond the free-agent market. They could pursue a trade for Oakland left-hander Brett Anderson. The Chicago Cubs reportedly are open to dealing Jeff Samardzija.

General manager Neal Huntington said Burnett remains the team's first choice, but the Pirates will keep shopping while he mulls his answer.

“We are still engaged and working through that process with him,” Huntington said Monday. “That may change as we get deeper into the offseason. I hope he comes back. If he doesn't, we'll appreciate the two years he played in Pittsburgh.”

Burnett led the team this past season with 191 innings pitched. He has worked at least 186 innings in each of the past six seasons.

That kind of dependability has immense value, which is why Arroyo, who has tossed at least 200 innings in all but one season since 2005, caught Huntington's eye. Still, Arroyo will turn 37 in February and could see his durability ebb.

“An ‘innings eater' is hard to come by,” Huntington said. “Once you get past a certain group of starters who just seem to throw 200 innings every year ... there's a huge fluctuation. Sometimes, you're better served just getting the guy you really like versus the guy who's eaten up innings in the past because that innings eater might not eat up innings for you next year.”

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez was one of those 200-inning pitchers until this year, when an arm injury held him to 62 innings.

After the season, Rodriguez triggered his contract option and will make $13 million in 2014. Huntington said Rodriguez is in the early stages of a throwing program and remains on track to be ready for spring training.

Huntington said the Pirates will not be bidders for potential free agent Masahiro Tanaka. It's still not clear whether Tanaka will be posted by the Japanese team that owns his rights. If he's posted, teams must come up with a $20 million fee just to be able to bid on Tanaka.

“I don't think Tanaka's coming to Pittsburgh,” Huntington said. “I think we can put that one to bed, unfortunately.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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