The Pirates have contacted "high-upside" starting pitchers on the free agent market, Travis Sawchik writes. This suggests that they aren't waiting around for A.J. Burnett, and they're trying to go the Francisco Liriano route yet again.
I'm assuming here that "high-upside" means pitchers who have upside but will also be relatively cheap. Sawchik doesn't name any names, but here are some pitchers who might fall into that category: Josh Johnson, Bartolo Colon, Dan Haren, Phil Hughes, Scott Kazmir. There aren't many. Edinson Volquez might work if you squint, but he hasn't had a good season since 2008.
It isn't surprising that the Pirates will be looking for this type of player, given their recent success with Liriano, Charlie Morton and others, and given that cost will be a factor for them. I'd rather have Burnett than any of these players, but if Burnett doesn't come back, the Pirates can at least save a bit of money here and find a hitter. They also have a good fallback plan in case they sign someone like Hughes and he doesn't work out, given that Jameson Taillon will likely be ready at some point this year.