White Sox keep ace Buehrle with four-year deal
The left-hander agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal Sunday, ending weeks of trade speculation about Chicago's best pitcher.
Fans at Sunday's game were told over the public address system that Buehrle had signed as the White Sox left the field following a 6-3 win over the Minnesota Twins. In the eighth inning, Buehrle was seen in the dugout hugging manager Ozzie Guillen and his teammates.
"Knowing that he's going to be here takes a load off everyone. What a happy day. It's pretty cool," Chicago's Jim Thome said. "You play with guys, and when this time of year comes around, you always hear different rumors."
Now they'll go away, at least for Buehrle.
A three-time All-Star, he could have been a free agent after this season. Earlier talks stalled over a no-trade clause that Buehrle wanted. And with the White Sox struggling this season just two years after winning the World Series, Buehrle's name popped up often in trade rumors.
He is 6-4 this season with a 3.03 ERA. His career record is 103-70 with a 3.77 ERA. A 38th-round draft pick in 1998, Buehrle broke in with the White Sox in 2000.
Buehrle said he didn't get a complete no-trade clause but there are provisions to compensate for that. His contract calls for $14 million in each of the four years. He has a no-trade provision in the first season. If he is traded during a window in the second or third seasons, the annual salary goes to $15 million that year and a fifth season is added, also at $15 million.
"My thinking was I wanted to be guaranteed I was going to be here for four years," the 28-year-old Buehrle said. "And there are some options put in there and some things that if I do get traded, stuff works out for me. ... Both sides had to give in."
Buehrle could have tested the free agent market but made it clear that he wanted to stay with the White Sox, although Saturday he said his chances of doing that were about 50-50. He also said he wanted to have his situation resolved quickly.
"The perception is he could have gotten X amount of dollars. So what we did was try to bridge the gap and make it work for everyone," general manager Ken Williams said in a teleconference call from San Francisco, site of the All-Star Game.
"If he hadn't accomplished all the things he has thus far and we didn't have a certain amount of confidence that he will maintain that high level then we wouldn't have entered into this agreement and I would have taken the blow and moved on and gone onto other things and tried to build up differently."
Buehrle slumped in the second half a year ago, finishing 12-13 -- his only losing mark in the majors. It appeared the stress of six straight seasons of more than 200 innings had began to show, even if he is not a power pitcher.
But this year, he's been a steady force for a disappointing White Sox team that hit the All-Star break with a 39-47 record. He also pitched a no-hitter on April 18 against the Rangers.
"We have a great comfort in where we're going and where he's going and it just made sense for us at this point," Williams said.
"I think ultimately the difference was providing Mark a little security in that, yes we have the four-year deal in place, but we've also given another year in the event that he is traded, so he really does not lose out on what he potentially could have gotten on the open market as a free agent.
"He expressed some desire to stay with us and we tried to make as many concessions as we could without hurting our future and ability to maneuver."
Buehrle said he was glad to have the process behind him, so he can relax during the All-Star break and not worry about his phone ringing. He said he was also tired of talking about it his future on almost a daily basis and potentially becoming a distraction for his teammates.
"I can go to bed knowing that I'll be here. I'm happy with the deal. Hopefully they are too," he said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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