"[Mark] Buehrle is a 200-inning machine," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern during a recent appearance on the Sirius/XM station, "[He] controls the running game, works fast, I think he'd be a good role model for our pitchers." The Nats' general manager had told reporters at the end of the year that adding a durable starter to the rotation in the nation's capital was once again a goal this winter after they'd failed to sign a free agent arm last year. In a late October interview Rizzo explained that the team wanted, "... to get the best possible rotation type of pitcher that we can. We like the players that we have coming in that are going to compete for our rotation in 2012, [and] we're always looking to upgrade and to improve our rotation."
Ideally, the GM explained, the pitcher they were after would be a, "... good leader type of guy that's thrown a lot of innings, that has shown that he can win in the big leagues and [can] really lead our staff." The Nats wanted not just an ace, or front-end arm, Rizzo said, but someone who could lead, "... not just by having the best stuff on the staff but by showing how to be a professional and how to be a winner and how to pitch 200 innings in a season many, many times in your career." The last line of course pointed astute observers to Chicago White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle, a 32-going-on-33-year-old starter who this year threw 205.1 innings in 2011, topping 200.0 innings for the eleventh-straight season.
Buehrle finished his 12th season in Chicago, after his selection in 38th Round of the 1998 Draft and just two years in the White Sox' system, with a 3.59 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 45 walks (1.97 BB/9) and 109 K's (4.78 K/9) in 31 starts and 205.1 IP over which he was worth +3.4 WAR. Buerhle's coming off a 4-year/$56 million dollar deal with the White Sox and he's a Type-B free agent, who won't cost the team that signs him a 1st Round pick like C.J. Wilson will, or Roy Oswalt might if the Phillies offer him arbitration, which they're not expected to after declining his option earlier this winter.
SI.com's Jon Heyman speculated this morning that Buehrle would likely get another 4-year/$56 million dollar deal in an article entitled, "Projections for Pujols, Fielder, Reyes and the top 65 free-agents", in which he wrote that with the White Sox seemingly out of the running, "The Marlins are in, and the Yankees and Nationals are two more expected to be. In a decidedly weak starting pitching market, he could get a year or two more than most figured."
(ed. note - "For the record, the SI.com writer speculates that C.J. Wilson will cost the team that signs him a 1st Round pick plus $80M over 5 years. Oswalt? One year, $11M is the estimate. Yu Darvish? $40M posting fee + a 5-year deal at $12M per.")
Buehrle turns 33 in March. Bill James' projections over at Fangraphs.com have the lefty making 31 starts and passing the 200-inning mark again while posting a 3.98 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 4.85 K/9 and 1.99 BB/9. Of course Buerhle will be pitching in a new city for the first time in his career and potentially in the National League for the first time outside of Interleague play. They left-hander already visited with the Marlins, who are one of 8-10 teams rumored to have interest. The Washington Nationals, according to multiple reports in the Washington Post, Washington Times, at NatsInsider.com and at MLB.com, visited with Buehrle today at his St. Louis home. The Nats have been clear about the left-hander being their top target. Today they apparently made their pitch.