One would imagine that it would be difficult for the acquisition of a 13-year veteran left-hander with a no-hitter and a perfect game on his resume to go nearly unnoticed. However, in an offseason where the Toronto Blue Jays have remade their roster with trades that included Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, and the signing of Melky Cabrera that is exactly the case.
And a quiet guy like Mark Buehrle would not have it any other way.
Buehrle, acquired in the November trade with the Marlins that also included the aforementioned Johnson and Reyes, along with John Buck (who was later flipped in the R.A. Dickey trade), has become the unsung pick-up of the winter. And while he does not carry the swagger that names like Johnson or Reyes or Dickey carry, Buehrle could become the most meaningful player picked up by Toronto this winter.
Toronto’s pitching staff had two glaring issues in 2012; one being the lack of an innings-eater starter, and the other being Ricky Romero.
Buehrle immediately becomes the guy to carry the innings load. In 13 seasons, he has failed to pitch 200 innings or make 30 starts just once, during his rookie season when he made 28 appearances, only starting 3 of those games. In the other twelve seasons, he has made an average of 33 starts and pitched an average of 219 innings. Buehrle does this because he works efficiently by pitching quickly and forcing the hitter to put the ball into play cleanly against him.
In terms of Ricky Romero, this is where Buehrle makes his largest contribution.
The former Toronto ace fell on some severely hard times in 2012, posting a 9-14 record with a 5.77 ERA and a -2.21 WPA (Win Probability Added) last season. Furthermore, he suffered through a 13-game losing streak where you could simply see the defeat in him.
Having another lefty on the staff in Buehrle, especially one that pitches similarly to Romero, could become hugely beneficial in turning him around and helping Romero discover the type of pitcher he needs to be. Romero averaged 17 pitches per inning pitched in 2012, the 9th highest mark in baseball last season. On the other side of the coin, Buehrle averaged 15.1 per inning, the 12th lowest in baseball. Those two extra pitches per inning may not sound like much, but as any fan can attest, two pitches were all it took Romero to get into trouble in any given inning.
Romero could take a lot away from Buehrle Forgoing his need to be a painter and trying to be too fine with his pitches will allow him to get back to being a groundball pitcher and reducing his walks, something Buehrle has been living off of for years.
If Buehrle’s presence and tutelage can help put Romero back on the right course, turning him into an efficient pitcher that wins 12-14 games a year with an ERA mid 3′s, than his role on the team could very well be the most significant of any player on the team.
You simply cannot put a price tag on a guy that makes those around him better.