On Friday, the Pirates announced that they had claimed middle infielder Ray Olmedo off waivers from Toronto and had cleared a spot for him on the 40-man roster by designating Burnett for assignment.
The Pirates now have 10 days in which to trade, release or outright Burnett to the Minors. And even if it gets to the point where the Pirates do try to outright him to Triple-A Indianapolis, the left-hander would first have to clear waivers.
"We're hoping that the waiver process will result in our favor," general manager Neal Huntington said. "At some point, we would like to see if we can get the Sean Burnett of old back. It's never easy to give up on a former No. 1 pick. You never want to lose that type of player in a waiver claim. But when we were looking at [team] depth and our lack of depth in the middle infield, we had to make a very difficult decision."
Burnett's status with the team had been in question long before Friday, with the club no longer having any options on the former first-round pick. As a result, his staying in the organization appeared to be hinging on whether or not he would make the Opening Day roster out of camp.
"I'm not worried about that," Burnett said last month, concerning his status. "It's kind of a relief that I'm out of options because they have to make a decision. If I'm healthy, I'm not worried about a job. I can pitch as well as anyone."
However, his path to the Majors was beginning to appear all but blocked already, as the Pirates' starting five has already been determined barring an injury or something unexpected. When it came down to the pieces the Pirates needed and those they already had, management was going to have a hard time finding a place for Burnett to fit in.
The 25-year-old did show up at Pirates minicamp back in January feeling healthy and strong for the first time in months. He had pitched pain-free in the Venezuelan Winter League during the offseason, and he finally felt that he could legitimately compete for a big league roster spot again.
Burnett hadn't pitched in Pittsburgh since 2004, when he went 5-5 with a 5.02 ERA in 13 starts. The lefty sat out the following season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow before going on to pitch in Triple-A during both the 2006 and '07 seasons.
With the addition of Olmedo, the Pirates receive another middle infielder with some limited Major League experience. Olmedo broke into the big leagues in 2003 with the Reds and played in a career-high 79 games that season. The 26-year-old Venezuelan went on to play parts of the next three seasons in Cincinnati before the Blue Jays claimed him off waivers prior to last season.
"We like the fact that he can play up the middle, which right now is an area that we don't have a lot of depth in in the organization," Huntington said. "At this point in time it gave us another Major League option to compete up the middle."
Olmedo will join Josh Wilson, also a Pittsburgh waiver claim, in competing for backup duties behind the Pirates middle infield combination of Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez.
Though Olmedo did appear in 27 games for Toronto last season, he spent the majority of the year playing shortstop for the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse. There, Olmedo hit .290 with 26 RBIs and 32 runs scored in 97 games.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.