Buehrle and impending Free Agency

By: Rich O’Connor

Sentimentality is a trait of all baseball fans; we take to change very poorly. This sentimentality is even stronger when it’s one of “our guys”, a guy who was drafted and eventually made his mark with your team. Mark Buehrle is such a player.

Drafted by the Sox in 1998 and making his MLB debut in 2000, He has been a staple in the Sox front end of the Sox rotation since 2001.

But the winds of change are blowing quite strong on the South Side these days, after a dismally disappointing 2011 season, the times they are a changin’. The Sox are looking to cut payroll and rebuild, hinted at by Kenny Williams, “it’s been … 11 years of throwing haymakers and trying to get the best talent, most impactful talent out there. Sometimes there’s a price to play, particularly when that doesn’t translate into success with the players you’ve acquired. You take it on the chin and you keep moving and you might have to modify the way you do business for a couple of years until you get that foundation back together where you say, ‘OK, now, if we had player X, Y or Z, now we have a championship goal again.”Cutting payroll means cutting ties with players, like Buehrle, who may have been principle players for a long time.

One of those casualties most certainly looks to be Buehrle who is coming off a very solid season, his 11th consecutive recording 200+ innings, 30+ starts and 10+ wins. He also is coming off his 3rd consecutive season in which he made $14M.

He is one of the top free agent pitchers this year, along with C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt ($16M Mutual Option); Buehrle will undoubtedly command a good amount of money on the open market due to his consistency in staying healthy and getting hitters out, a consistency that hasn’t shown any signs that he is going to dramatically fall off anytime soon. He does see himself pitching for years to come, I’m willing or wanting to play for a couple of more years. Whatever teams are out there, I’ll find a suburban place to live that’s comfortable for my family and go from there.”

Buehrle, a Missouri native, has expressed interest in switching leagues, “it’s one of those things where it would be kind of an interesting challenge to switch leagues and see how the National League is. Plus an extra bonus is you get to hit, “which leads many to believe St. Louis as the most logical landing place for the lefty. Another advantage Buehrle has discussed is the challenges of facing the same hitters year after year, “With how many pitches you’ve thrown him, he’s seen everything you’ve got and then some, you are trying to trick him and trying to invent stuff and make up stuff to try to get him out.”

When asked about his impending free agency, “It’s going to be sit back and see what happens, I’ve never been in this spot, so I don’t know if we are supposed to make calls or waiting for them kind of thing.

Other than the Sox not opening up the checkbook and paying there is the fact that the Sox already have his replacement currently in the Bullpen, Chris Sale. Sale was drafted to be a starter, and has done nothing but start his entire life.

But, unless he is willing to take a significant pay cut, and willing to take far below market value, Mark will be pitching elsewhere in 2012 and beyond.

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