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A.J. Burnett declines player option, likely to pitch in 2015

The right-hander wants to pitch for a contender in 2015.

Mitchell Leff

Phillies' right-hander A.J. Burnett has declined his $12.75 million player option and will hit free agency, according to a team announcement. The decision comes on the heels of both sides declining their $15 million mutual options.

Burnett is expected to pitch next season and would like to pitch for a contender, his agent, Darek Braunecker, told Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. The soon-to-be 38-year old has mulled retirement for the last couple of seasons, but chose the Phillies over the Orioles and Pirates on the free agent market last season.

Burnett had a down year last season, posting an 8-18 record and 4.59 ERA in 34 starts for the last-place Phillies. He could draw interest from the Orioles and Pirates again, especially with starters Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez potentially leaving Pittsburgh as free agents.

For the Phillies, Burnett's decision means that the team has some payroll flexibility to make significant free agent additions and start the much-needed rebuilding process. Philadelphia is expected to explore trades involving some veteran players this winter, and could add some younger pieces in the free agent market.