Although he had said repeatedly during the season that he was leaning toward retirement, Burnett's agent, Darek Braunecker, told ESPN.com on Monday night that the 37-year-old right-hander "wants to pitch for a contender" next season.
Burnett had signed a complicated one-year, $16 million contract with the Phillies in February. The deal contained both a mutual option for 2015, at $15 million, and a player option that grew to $12.75 million because Burnett made more than 32 starts this season.
Both sides declined the mutual option late last week. Burnett had until 11:59 p.m. ET Monday to accept or decline the player option.
Had he accepted the option, he could have made up to $14.5 million next season if he had started at least 30 games, as he has done in each of the past seven seasons. However, Burnett opted to pass on a dollar figure he is unlikely to receive in free agency for the chance to finish his career with a team better-positioned to contend than the Phillies.
Burnett pitched most of the season with a hernia condition that required postseason surgery, and struggled to an 8-18 record with a 4.59 ERA. He led the National League in losses, and allowed the most earned runs and walks of any starter in the league. But he also struck out 190 hitters in 213 2/3 innings, and his strikeout ratio and the 8.6 hits he allowed per nine innings were similar to his numbers in Pittsburgh in 2012, when he went 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA.
After hinting for much of the season that he probably was going to retire, Burnett told reporters after a start in mid-September that "if I can lift my arm up at the end of the season, then I might pitch."
He said that night that he had signed with the Phillies because he expected them to be contenders. Instead, they lost 89 games and finished last in the NL East.
"I expected a lot of things to be different," he said in September. "A lot."
He declined at the time to explain exactly what those things were. But his contract decision Monday night spoke volumes.