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DALLAS – The Miami Marlins continued their staggering spending spree by agreeing to terms with left-handed starting pitcher Mark Buehrle(notes) on a four-year, $58 million contract Wednesday, the third top-tier free agent they've acquired in a week.
Attention the last two days had been on the Marlins' chase of slugger Albert Pujols(notes). But as Wednesday afternoon wore on and it appeared Pujols was leaning toward returning to the St. Louis Cardinals or signing with the Los Angeles Angels Miami struck again in a different direction.
The Marlins, emboldened by a new $640 million stadium, already have signed closer Heath Bell(notes) to a three-year, $27 million deal and shortstop Jose Reyes(notes) to a six-year, $108 million deal. Now they've added a veteran left-handed innings-eater to a predominantly right-handed rotation.
The Marlins new manager, Ozzie Guillen, was Buehrle's manager with the Chicago White Sox the last eight years. They are close friends, a factor that undoubtedly contributed to Buehrle's decision.
"I'm glad to have him because now I can see his kids grow up," Guillen said. "It's about pitching. … He made my life a little bit easier because pitching can drive you crazy and now we have one guy who can help us win."
Buehrle, who will be 33 on opening day, was considered the second-best free-agent pitcher on the market behind C.J. Wilson(notes). Reports surfaced Wednesday that the Marlins had offered Wilson a six-year deal, and he is weighing that against a five-year offer from the Los Angeles Angels.
Buehrle spent the first 12 years of his career with the White Sox, posting a record of 161-119 with a 3.83 ERA. He works fast and throws strikes. Buehrle four times led the American League in hits allowed, but he rarely exceeded 50 walks in a season.
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Buehrle is best remembered for his perfect game July 23, 2009, against the Tampa Bay Rays at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. He also pitched a no-hitter in 2007 against the Texas Rangers.
He was a popular player in Chicago, emerging as a star after being drafted in the 38th round out of a community college. He helped the White Sox win the 2005 World Series, recording wins in the ALDS and ALCS and notching a save in the World Series.
Because Buehrle is from Missouri, the Cardinals were considered a favorite to sign him. And while it appears Pujols will return to St. Louis rather than join the stampede to south Florida, the Marlins meanwhile stole Buehrle away from his roots.
The Marlins' strategy seems to be the equivalent of carpet bombing: Make offers to every viable free agent and let their agents sort it out. They might not be in on Pujols after committing $193 million to Reyes, Buehrle and Bell. But there are signs they will shift their attention to slugging first baseman Prince Fielder(notes), whose agent, Scott Boras, has been patiently waiting for Pujols to make a decision and crystallize the market.
Reading between the lines of Guillen's comments Wednesday, one would think Miami is poised to shovel money in Fielder's direction. More than once during a 30-minute group interview he made reference to the Marlins adding "Pujols or Fielder."
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