The Phillies are “very much still in the running” to sign A.J. Burnett

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Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. indicated Friday that he didn’t expect to make any additions prior to spring training, but Todd Zolecki of MLB.com hears that the club is “very much still in the running” to sign free agent right-hander A.J. Burnett.

While it’s unclear if the two sides are close to a deal, Zolecki writes that the chances have improved since Friday. The Pirates are seen as the main competition to sign the veteran right-hander, while the Orioles and the Nationals have also been mentioned as possibilities.

If signed, Burnett would give the Phillies a pretty impressive trio along with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. As of now, Kyle Kendrick is slated to be Philadelphia’s No. 3 starter, with Roberto Hernandez and either Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez or Jonathan Pettibone filling the final two spots.

Burnett, 37, had a 3.30 ERA and 209/67 K/BB ratio over 191 innings with the Pirates last season.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.