Is Mark Buehrle the type of free agent Alex Anthopoulos wants?

Image courtesy of SI.com

With names like Hiroki Kuroda, Javier Vasquez, and Roy Oswalt heading the thin free agent crop of starting pitchers, the Jays will likely look more to the trade route to address their starting rotation this offseason.

While I’ll have some upcoming posts on a few starting pitchers that the Jays could target via trade, there is one southpaw not named C.J. Wilson who will also draw a lot of interest on the free agent market.

That would be Chicago White Sox ace Mark Buehrle, who hasn’t been talked about a lot since the regular season ended but is worth discussing.

Shortly after the regular season ended, GM Alex Anthopoulos hinted that he’d be interested in adding a mid-to-front of the rotation starter over the offseason. Jays manager John Farrell, however, was more blunt.

“I really feel like when you look at any team that is contending or going into the postseason, their cornerstone is their rotation,” said Farrell in an article from the Toronto Sun’s Ken Fidlin. “Improvements in that area, whether internal or external, would be item No. 1. It allows that middle reliever or setup guy to come to the mound having proper rest. It keeps the game under control, provided he’s not only giving you 200 innings but 200 quality innings.”

One hurler that’s certainly capable of giving his manager 200 quality innings in a season is Buehrle, who has done so for 11 straight years. In fact, he has never missed a single start in his career and has started at least 30 games in each one of his 11 full seasons.

He has, however also given up at least 200 hits in each of the last ten seasons, with a career average of just over one hit allowed per inning pitched. Any pitcher that allows that many hits, not to mention possesses a super-low strikeout rate like Buehrle’s (5.1 career K/9), would not seem destined to have a long major league career, but the Missouri native is obviously an exception, even tossing a perfect game in his impressive career.

His hefty five-pitch repertoire has helped him keep hitters in check over the years and limit any damage he may run himself into, as both his ERA and FIP have hovered around 4.00 during his entire career.

Given the thin free-agent market, though, teams will be lining up to acquire Buehrle, who is coming off a four-year, $56 million contract that he signed with the White Sox in 2007. It’s hard to imagine him signing for considerably less money than his previous deal, especially since he has a more proven track record than Wilson, widely considered to be this winter’s top free-agent lefty and starter in general. Unlike WIlson, though, Buehrle is nearly guaranteed to rank as a Type-B free agent this winter, so it wouldn’t cost a team anything to sign him.

The number of years on Buehrle’s next contract, though, is a very interesting part.

“Obviously, I’d like to play two or three more years,” Buehrle told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune near the end of the regular season. “I think getting a five-year deal is probably not going to happen. But (if a) one-year deal was the only offer, then you got to take it. But I’m looking for a couple more years.”

There have been rumblings that the White Sox would be interested in bringing him back on a two-year deal or that the Red Sox would explore a similar term. Frankly, any team in baseball would explore that length of a contract, and surely Anthopoulos will explore that opportunity this offseason if it creates itself.

The question is, though, whether or not Buehrle would be the piece that Anthopoulos feels would put the Jays over the top and transform their current group into playoff contenders.

The Jays don’t seem to be one piece away yet, but they sure are close. As we all know, anything can happen with the Silent Assassin, so we’ll ultimately just wait and see.

-JM

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  • Mylegacy

    What drives me nuts – and as my wife would suggest it’s a very short drive – is that the Jays are so freakin’ close to having not only five solid starters but more than five exceptional starters. Guys like Buehrle belong in the NL. NOT in the AL East. The guy is durable – so is the paint on my balcony – big whoop.

    Would YOU want Mark to block one of: Hutchison, Molina, McGuire, Syndergaard, Nicolino (and a dozen others) for even ONE second? The ONLY guy out there that MIGHT be a game changer is YKW (Yu Know Who).

    I’m happy to START 2012 with a front four of Romero (assuming that tweet the other day about him having a shoulder op wasn’t serious), Alvarez, Morrow and McGowan. I WANT to see if those four guys can pass muster.

    As to the fifth – if it’s not YKW then I’M HAPPY to see one of “Fab Four” from Manchester (Hutchison, Molina, McGuire and Jenkins) FORCE his (or their) way into the picture at pitcher.

    Jared, I continue to enjoy your site a lot! Keep up the good work. I visit at least a few times every day. Ya, I know – my life sucks.

  • Mylegacy

    What drives me nuts – and as my wife would suggest it’s a very short drive – is that the Jays are so freakin’ close to having not only five solid starters but more than five exceptional starters. Guys like Buehrle belong in the NL. NOT in the AL East. The guy is durable – so is the paint on my balcony – big whoop.

    Would YOU want Mark to block one of: Hutchison, Molina, McGuire, Syndergaard, Nicolino (and a dozen others) for even ONE second? The ONLY guy out there that MIGHT be a game changer is YKW (Yu Know Who).

    I’m happy to START 2012 with a front four of Romero (assuming that tweet the other day about him having a shoulder op wasn’t serious), Alvarez, Morrow and McGowan. I WANT to see if those four guys can pass muster.

    As to the fifth – if it’s not YKW then I’M HAPPY to see one of “Fab Four” from Manchester (Hutchison, Molina, McGuire and Jenkins) FORCE his (or their) way into the picture at pitcher.

    Jared, I continue to enjoy your site a lot! Keep up the good work. I visit at least a few times every day. Ya, I know – my life sucks.

  • mscott208208

    @Mylegacy I agree so much with what you said its unbelievable.

  • mscott208208

    @Mylegacy I agree so much with what you said its unbelievable.

  • talesen

    Good question. I would say close but no cigar. Mostly because of the dollars involved in signing but also because he’s probably a hair shy of being the elite pitcher AA would be interested in (and likely would rather trade for, not overpay in Free Agency).

  • talesen

    Good question. I would say close but no cigar. Mostly because of the dollars involved in signing but also because he’s probably a hair shy of being the elite pitcher AA would be interested in (and likely would rather trade for, not overpay in Free Agency).

  • juanguzman

    i say go with the rotation of romero,morrow,cecil, mcgowan and alvarez unless they can sign yu darvish. if darvish becomes a jay, cecil moves to the pen. i really don’t think buehrle would be that beneficial. i still think the focus needs to be put on the closers role. the jays STARTERS did not blow 26 saves last year. i think they should bring back francisco as the set up man and go hard after papelbohn or madsen or even cecil as the closer. one other option would be drabek. i do not believe he has a great career aheah of him as a starter.

  • juanguzman

    i say go with the rotation of romero,morrow,cecil, mcgowan and alvarez unless they can sign yu darvish. if darvish becomes a jay, cecil moves to the pen. i really don’t think buehrle would be that beneficial. i still think the focus needs to be put on the closers role. the jays STARTERS did not blow 26 saves last year. i think they should bring back francisco as the set up man and go hard after papelbohn or madsen or even cecil as the closer. one other option would be drabek. i do not believe he has a great career aheah of him as a starter.

  • Jared_Macdonald

    Mylegacy, great to hear from you and glad you’re still keeping tabs on the site!

    As you’ve probably seen for quite some time, Mat and I have always been in favor of the kids getting their chances to prove themselves, so I certainly agree with you that it’s frustrating that the Jays are so close to having a rotation filled entirely with not only home grown pitchers (excluding Morrow, of course), but damn good ones!

    Personally, I see the Jays breaking camp with a new addition to their rotation, either Yu Darvish or a controllable stud acquired via trade. If not, I’m content with having Romero, Morrow, and McGowan as the locks for the Opening Day rotation, with a wide variety of arms being able to fill the final two spots, one of which likely going to Alvarez. But I’m still pulling for a nice trade this offseason.

    What I really enjoy, though, is seeing fans buying into Anthopoulos’ philosophy so much and casual fans actually wanting the kids to be called up and get their shots over any veterans. It’s pretty exciting.

  • Jared_Macdonald

    Mylegacy, great to hear from you and glad you’re still keeping tabs on the site!

    As you’ve probably seen for quite some time, Mat and I have always been in favor of the kids getting their chances to prove themselves, so I certainly agree with you that it’s frustrating that the Jays are so close to having a rotation filled entirely with not only home grown pitchers (excluding Morrow, of course), but damn good ones!

    Personally, I see the Jays breaking camp with a new addition to their rotation, either Yu Darvish or a controllable stud acquired via trade. If not, I’m content with having Romero, Morrow, and McGowan as the locks for the Opening Day rotation, with a wide variety of arms being able to fill the final two spots, one of which likely going to Alvarez. But I’m still pulling for a nice trade this offseason.

    What I really enjoy, though, is seeing fans buying into Anthopoulos’ philosophy so much and casual fans actually wanting the kids to be called up and get their shots over any veterans. It’s pretty exciting.

  • Jared_Macdonald

    @talesen Agreed talesen, Buehrle’s salary could likely be a deterrent, but also the fact that he’s dependent on his defense. Outside of Yunel, an infield of Lawrie, Lind, and possibly Johnson might not be the best for a guy like Buehrle, not to mention below average corner outfield defense from Bautista and Thames/Snider (as it stands right now, that is).

  • Jared_Macdonald

    @talesen Agreed talesen, Buehrle’s salary could likely be a deterrent, but also the fact that he’s dependent on his defense. Outside of Yunel, an infield of Lawrie, Lind, and possibly Johnson might not be the best for a guy like Buehrle, not to mention below average corner outfield defense from Bautista and Thames/Snider (as it stands right now, that is).