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Pirates trade rumors: Brandon McCarthy, A.J. Burnett among possible rotation targets

Burnett could return to the Pirates before the trade deadline.

Drew Hallowell

UPDATE (7/1): A source with knowledge of the situation believes that the Pirates would be the "single best fit" for Burnett, and that a trade involving the right-hander is likely before July 31.

ORIGINAL: Though they currently sit eight games behind the division-leading Brewers in the NL Central, the fourth-place Pirates are still looking to be buyers at the trade deadline. Acording to John Perrotto of USA Today, the Pirates are looking to make rotation upgrades at the trade deadline, with Brandon McCarthy and A.J. Burnett (yes, that A.J. Burnett) among the rotation upgrades they are considering.

Burnett, who left Pittsburgh for the Phillies last winter in a bit of an awkward split, would make perfect sense for a Pirates' team that could use a veteran starter in the absence of injured ace Francisco Liriano. Though Burnett can block trades to 21 major league teams, major league sources indicate that the Pirates are one of the nine teams on his "acceptable assignment" list, meaning that he would embrace a return to Pittsburgh if the two teams were to agree on a deal.

Burnett, 37, is 5-7 with a 3.89 ERA, and could be moved in advance of the trade deadline if the Phillies decide to sell veteran pieces to contenders. Any team that acquires Burnett will likely have him for the next two seasons, as he is owed $8M for the rest of this season and can exercise a $7.5M player option for 2015. The Phillies could pick up some of that tab if they do decide to trade him.

McCarthy, who is a free agent after the season, is reportedly drawing strong trade interest despite his 5.11 ERA this season. He would make sense in the back of the Pirates' rotation if Jeff Locke or Vance Worley begin to struggle, and is likely to be dealt to a contender before July 31.