Friday, September 30, 2011

Mark Buehrle Is Playing The Game

Mark Buehrle has undergone quite the change over the last year. He's gone from saying a year ago that he would probably retire after his contract with the White Sox expired to realizing that retiring when he could probably make another $50 million would be downright idiotic.

You can buy a lot of ammo, beer and land with $50 million.

Whether Buehrle was ever truly serious about retirement, I can't be sure, but it's obvious now that he has absolutely no plans of saying goodbye to baseball at the age of 32. Now, a day after his contract with the White Sox came to an end, he's already begun playing the game.

"I don't know if I'm waiting to see if one guy signs until I sign," Buehrle told Mark Gonzalez. "If the right deal is there and the right team is there, I don't think I'm going to wait around to see what everyone else gets."

What Buehrle is talking about is whether or not he'll wait for C.J. Wilson to sign a new contract, and possibly CC Sabathia as well should the Yankee ace opt out of his deal -- and considering the rest of New York's rotation, Sabathia probably should -- before deciding his market value. He's also saying that he's open to signing anywhere, be it the White Sox or the National League.

In my gut I feel as though Buehrle wants to stay with the White Sox. As someone who brought up his family as the main reason he was considering retirement, I have a hard time thinking he'd want to change anything unless the chance to move closer to home and pitch for the Royals or Cardinals became a reality.

The question is whether or not the White Sox would be willing to come up with an offer that could compete with ones Buehrle will get elsewhere. I have a feeling that Buehrle would give the White Sox the same kind of hometown discount that Paul Konerko has in the past, but not if the deal is significantly smaller.

The problem is the White Sox seem determined to shed payroll, or at least, that's what they're saying. I seem to recall hearing that the team was going to try and shed payroll last season, and the next thing I knew it spent $56 million on Adam Dunn and raised the team's payroll over $20 million.

How many times have we heard that Jerry Reinsdorf is broke only to see him pour more money into his ultimate train set?

I also have a feeling that, with Ozzie gone, Kenny Williams may be more determined to put together a winning ball club more than ever. Just so he can show the world that he was the man behind this team's success, not Guillen.

Though Jerry has to give him the checkbook first.

When it comes to Buehrle, though, I feel like it's an investment the White Sox have to make. I'd like to believe that John Danks is the heir apparent to Buehrle, but he is yet to achieve the kind of consistency that Mark has had his entire career, and I'm not sure Danks will ever be able to achieve that.

There's also the possibility that Chris Sale moves from the bullpen to the starting rotation, but I'm not sure I like that idea all that much. Sale has been so valuable in the bullpen that I wonder if fixing something that isn't broken will only create bigger problems elsewhere.

Mark Buehrle is not a Cy Young candidate, and he's not the kind of pitcher you build a staff around, but he's the kind of pitcher this team is going to need if it actually plans on contending in 2012.

He's going to go out there and give you at least 200 innings, never get hurt, and give you a chance to win in at least 30 games. That's valuable on a pitching staff that is in the hole for $17 million with Jake Peavy next year.

Buehrle has the kind of value to a team that plenty will try and compensate him for, and if I were a general manager of a National League team, I'd be going after him hard. Buehrle's game fits perfectly in the NL, where pitching to contact is a lot less dangerous, and he's shown us he knows how to handle a bat.

So somebody is going to give him money this winter, he knows it, and he's not going to commit to anything until then. I just hope it's the White Sox who commit to him.

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