Club still in Burnett chase, agent says

Free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett has narrowed his primary focus to roughly a half-dozen teams, and the Orioles remain in the mix.

Burnett's agent, Darek Braunecker, said he had a "real nice conversation" with Orioles president Andy MacPhail on Friday and that his client, who makes his offseason home in Monkton, is genuinely interested in playing here.


"They are doing what a lot of other clubs are doing right now," Braunecker said by phone yesterday. "They are getting a realistic feel of the market before really jumping in. It's fair to say the interest is mutual and we'll continue down the road with them."

MacPhail, who doesn't comment on contract negotiations, would neither confirm nor deny that he has made an offer to Burnett.


"We're progressing along as best we can," he said.

Braunecker said there is no timetable or current favorite to sign Burnett, 31, who was 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA for the Toronto Blue Jays this year.

When Burnett was a free agent at the end of the 2005 season, Braunecker said, there were more than 20 teams originally interested and that list eventually was whittled to a dozen. This time, Burnett started with about 12 teams he would consider and is down to six leading candidates and a few peripheral options.

Although the agent would not confirm the suitors, three of the Orioles' American League East rivals, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and the Blue Jays, have been linked to Burnett. So have the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.

"There is sincere and mutual interest [with the Orioles]. I say that for good reason," he said. "We're not here to waste people's time or our time." Several news outlets have suggested that Braunecker is seeking a five-year deal, and the New York Post reported last week that the Yankees were prepared to offer five years and perhaps $80 million - which would seemingly be too salty for the Orioles. The club has never signed a free-agent pitcher for more than three years.

Braunecker said length of contract is only one factor in Burnett's decision.

"If, indeed, A.J. wants to play in a place for five years, it is available to him," Braunecker said. "But we are going to make that determination at a later stage."

Talking with Markakis


MacPhail and the agent for Nick Markakis have confirmed they have engaged in recent discussions about a contract extension for the right fielder.

Markakis' agent, Jamie Murphy, said he has had "active talks" with MacPhail as recently as yesterday but would not comment further.

MacPhail wouldn't characterize the negotiations, saying only that they were "moving."

Markakis, who turned 25 last week, made $455,000 in 2008. He is eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason and cannot be a free agent until 2011.

Adding another Thrift?

Jim Thrift is the leading candidate to be the Orioles' next advance scout, according to MacPhail. An announcement could be made this week.


Thrift, 46, is the son of former Orioles vice president Syd Thrift, who was with the organization from 1995 until 2002. He died after complications from surgery in 2006.

The younger Thrift is a former minor league player and manager, and most recently a Cincinnati Reds scout. Jim Howard, who was the Orioles' advance scout in 2008, has moved back to a pro scouting position with the club, MacPhail said.