A few years ago, Mark Buehrle openly talked of icing his arm for good once his deal with the White Sox expired.
Well, at least he got the "moving to Florida" part of retirement right.
Though he may have once pined to spend more time with his family, the 32-year-old left-hander became the latest to wander underneath the Miami Marlins' money tree, agreeing to a four-year deal worth a combined $58 million on Wednesday. Despite it being his age 33-36 seasons, the contract is for a couple of million more than the four-year, $56 million deal he signed to stay in Chicago before the 2008 season.
But it really does stay in line with the charmed theme of Buehrle's big-league career. Originally a 38th-round draft pick out of Jefferson Community College in Missouri, Buehrle was more or less the face of the Chicago White Sox franchise over the past decade. He racked up 161 victories for the Pale Hose, made four All-Star appearances, started a World Series game (and saved one), threw a no-hitter in 2007 and followed it up with a perfect game in 2009. He did this all while becoming one of the South Side's all-time favorites, doing the little things like starting an organization for homeless animals or catching the ceremonial first pitch on his off days, even if the hurler wasn't a famous singer or movie star.
Buehrle achieved everything he could achieve with the White Sox and so perhaps it would have made sense for him to ride off into a retirement full of deer stands and monster trucks. But with pitchers like Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver removing themselves from this offseason's market with early club-friendly deals, it provided a huge opportunity for Buehrle and his agent to clear out the cash register a little more cleanly than when they gave the White Sox a hometown discount in '08.
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And clean it out they did. While a market more crowded with talent may have only produced a two- or three-year deal for a pitcher of his age and skillset, Buehrle was able to garner four full seasons from a free-spending Marlins team that has grown tired of waiting to hear an answer from Albert Pujols. Buerhle will be reunited with his old manager Ozzie Guillen in south Florida and will provide the type of pitching depth that the Marlins need. Josh Johnson will be the ace, of course, but Buehrle can provide the type of No. 2 consistency that Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco have never produced.
Is this an overpay for the Marlins? Perhaps. But considering they've shelled out a combined $191 million for Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell (with possibly even more players to acquire), I'm not even sure they care. OK, I'm very sure they don't care.
Buehrle's consistency, however, was his big selling point and that should continue as he makes the jump into the National League and into a spacious new ballpark that could play even bigger than Petco. He'll be missed in Chicago, but it was time for him to move on to pastures that turned out to be even greener than he imagined.
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