The proposed trade between the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh that would make A.J. Burnett a Pirate is close but not quite done, and there are indications that the Yankees are pressuring Pittsburgh to sweeten its offer for the beleaguered 35-year-old right-hander.
According to sources on both sides of the deal who spoke to ESPNNewYork.com on the condition of anonymity, there is still optimism that a trade would be completed, perhaps as soon as this week, but there were still significant hurdles to be cleared.
"We are in stare-down mode," an official with direct knowledge of the talks told ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand.
The Angels also have interest in Burnett, but Los Angeles is on Burnett's no-trade list. There has been no indication that Burnett will waive the clause to play on the West Coast.
Former Yankee Bobby Abreu could be the target for New York. Abreu is owed $9 million from the Angels, who don't appear to have a spot for him to play regularly. Sources still believe that the Pirates are the favorites to acquire Burnett, but no deal has been agreed to yet.
And the emergence of a new player, the Cleveland Indians, in the mix complicates matters further.
Although one source who is close to Burnett characterized a deal between the Yankees and Pirates as "imminent," a source in the Yankees organization said the Pirates would have to sweeten their offer before anything is finalized.
"I would still say it's 50-50 that the deal gets done," the team source said, "but I would not use the word 'imminent.' "
Currently, the framework of the deal has the Yankees exchanging Burnett for an undetermined number of prospects, and in return, the Pirates would agree to assume a portion of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's contract, which has two more years remaining on it.
"Ten million ain't gonna get it done," said the Yankees source, referring to the amount of Burnett's salary the Pirates have agreed to pay. "Not unless we get top-level prospects."
The Pirates' highest-rated prospect, right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole, is not among the players being offered in the deal.
"The better the players they give us, the less money they have to pay, and vice versa," said the Yankees source, who added that three other clubs were still interested in Burnett. A source told ESPNNewYork.com that the Yankees took a phone call from the Indians regarding Burnett on Tuesday morning.
"Pittsburgh is still the front-runner here," the source said, "but a lot of things can happen. We could make a deal with them, we could make a deal with another club or we might not make a deal at all."
Burnett's agent, Darek Braunecker, said in a telephone interview that Burnett was prepared for any eventuality. "He wasn't blindsided by this," Braunecker said. "He knew the Yankees added pitching in the offseason and he knew there would be competition in spring training, and he was looking forward to it. He was excited about it."
Asked if Burnett would be able to resume a productive working relationship with the Yankees should the proposed deal fall apart, Braunecker said, "Unquestionably. He's a professional and he's always had a good relationship with the Yankees and [general manager] Brian Cashman. He's been around a long time and knows what the deal is."
He might be the only one.
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand was used in this report.