Halfway into extension, Buehrle well worth it

Ozzie Guillen considered shutting down Mark Buehrle for the season. Instead, he gave Buehrle a chance to redeem himself in the nightcap of the doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians.
Buehrle went out on a high note. He threw six shutout innings in an outing devoid of drama, beating Justin Masterson and his 12 strikeouts in a tidy two-hour, two-minute affair.
Bad August aside — and that’s always the case — Buehrle has lived up to the first half of his four-year, $56 million contract:

W
L
ERA
GS
IP
H
R
ER
HR
BB
K
2008
15
12
3.79
34
218.2
240
106
92
22
52
140
2009
13
10
3.84
33
213.1
222
97
91
27
45
105
Total
28
22
3.81
67
432
462
203
183
49
97
245

His ERA+ was 119 before his Wednesday start, so it’s probably 120-122 now, which puts him squarely at his career average, as well.  Factor in the relatively low amount of unearned runs (he’s usually in double-digits), and Buehrle has given the Sox exactly what they expected — even if he does it in a streaky fashion.
On the other hand, it should be said that his 10-and-5 rights kick on July 16, 2010.  Some of you — okay, maybe just Striker — are jonesing to deal a starter because the Sox might have a sixth in Daniel Hudson, perish the thought.
Well, Buehrle would be the most expendable.
His trade value isn’t astronomical in this economy, since the team trading him would have to pay him an extra $1 million for each of the next two seasons and a third year at $15 million, too. But it’s definitely good enough to acquire a quality cost-controlled corner outfielder.
When you look at his fastball velocity and strikeout rate, his best days are behind him.  That’s no knock on Buehrle; he’s just not going to rival his 2004-05 self, so the Sox wouldn’t be trading away a force.
Still, it’s nearly impossible to see it happen for a couple of reasons.
For one, trading Buehrle would be a blow to a fanbase that is a sensitive subject for the organization. It would be equally upsetting to the Buehrles — unless he were traded to St. Louis — since he gave the Sox an easy deal in terms of timing and, well, terms. (Hell, I’d be as furious as I get — not very, but still — and I understand it perfectly.)
Even factoring out the emotional aspect, it’s hard to see Kenny Williams robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Baseball Prospectus said:

It needs to be noted, though, that the White Sox put up a .518 team Support-Neutral Winning Percentage, which ranked second in the American League. This suggests that White Sox starting pitching was doing its job better than all four playoff teams’ rotations in the junior circuit.

It’s hard to see Williams denting his true strength when he wouldn’t be guaranteed to improve the offense. He’s acquired solid hitters in each of the last two seasons, only to watch them tank.
The Sox had a similar situation on their hands a couple years ago. With the Sox coming off a losing season, Paul Konerko was set to become a 10-and-5 guy a month into the 2008 season. The Sox had a similar amount of incentive to deal Konerko as they would Buehrle, because getting out from under the three years and $36 million left on his contract would be valuable in and of itself. They also risked losing a favorite of Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Reinsdorf.
The impending no-trade protection didn’t pressure Williams enough, apparently. He stuck with Konerko, and we can’t say it’s cost him. We’ll probably see the same play out with Buehrle and the rest of the Sox rotation, and rightly so if Williams still wants to win now.
At the end of the season, Buehrle will go back to Missouri and begin an arm-strengthening program, which will be new to him. He’s taken Don Cooper’s “Johnny Condition-Guy” comment to heart, apparently, and hopefully it won’t upset his natural balance, because we’re halfway through his deal, and nobody can complain.
Plus, if you look at it another way, the Sox could be well beyond the halfway point right now. If Buehrle can repeat his 2009 season in 2010, he’ll effectively turn 2011 into a bonus round.
Here’s my thinking: Reinsdorf would’ve only signed Buehrle to a three-year deal if they had their druthers. In that world, Buehrle would be up for another costly extension after 2010, which would be frought with peril for a soft-tosser.
But if No. 56 has another Buehrlesque show in 2010, it comes at no additional cost.  Instead, it gives the Sox one more year to see if and when the Decline Monster will take a bite out of Buehrle. If 2011 is the year he hits the wall, then so be it.
Buehrle’s contract is a lot like A.J. Pierzynski’s extension, in that it’s worth a lot more to the Sox than anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with that, because in a utopian state, a team should only sign players for itself.
Let’s step out of the hypothetical now, because that’s basically what this entire exercise is. Buehrle’s no-trade clause might kick in come July, but it almost took effect after his perfect game.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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jimbo

I would imagine Jake Peavy would be a little upset if the sox traded Buehrle. He would not have waived his no trade to go to a team with no shot at winning.
I think the sox will surprise us this winter and will spend a lot of money to improve the team. They slashed payroll by approximately 20% last year and their attendance had to have been better this year than what they expected. I think they will have enough payroll flexibility this winter to go after Matt Holliday and I’m predicting that’s who they will make a run at.

knoxfire30

Holliday was basically a fringe above average in the American league, you want to shell out close to a 100 mil for an above average corner outfielder?

jimbo

You have to be kidding? You’re going to look at a couple of months in a pitchers park whilke seeing pitchers for a first time and tell me Holliday is not one of the elite outfielders in baseball? Yes, I would invest close to 100 mil over the next 5 years to get one of the best players in the game.

knoxfire30

No im not kidding you, look at the numbers and do your homework Holliday is a product of the NL and Coors field. He is an above average player not a great one.
AT HOME FOR HIS CAREER, a 2 to 1 homer run ratio compared to playing on the road. An average thats 70 points higher, an obp thats 75 points higher, a slugging percentage thats 180 points higher, an OPS thats 240 points higher.
THOSE ARE MONSTER SPLITS, he is a superstar when at home, usually in coors field. He is above average in the AL, with all that data their is no way im risking 100 mil to find out if his career splits and his 3 months in the AL were a fluke.

striker

I bet most players hit better at home, no matter the park. Holliday has also hit pretty well in St. Louis. I’m sure he would continue to hit well. Whether he’s worth 5/100 is another question. I see him as a Helton type hitter who will decline in power but still hit for average.

knoxfire30

Yea guys hit a little better at home, those splits are far beyond the norm though. As I pointed out Holliday 250 points difference in Home and Road OPS. I just looked up guys at random feel free to add to the list.
Dye 50 points difference
Sheffield 50
Mags 60
Vlad 40
Markakis 20
Carlos Lee 30
Hawpe 20
Bonds 30
Bay (4 points better on the road)
There isnt much of a debate in my opinion Im not risking 100 mil when the split is that unbelievably dramatic.

jimbo

Without doing any homework I do know that the Cell is a better park for hitting home runs than Coors Field. He played in two pitcher’s parks this year and has a line of .311/.389/.515 with 105 rbi. His home away splits were also favoring home field this year even at those parks. There is no sound reason to assume he would put up anything short of what he’s done this year if he were playing half of his games at US Cellular field. He’s a 5+ war player at a position the sox need a lot of help at.

knoxfire30

I dont know what else to do to show you he isnt good in the AL and on the road. I suspect Kenny knows about these numbers as do American league clubs, I will be shocked if he signs anywhere other then the National league.
Im positive the sox wont go after him so Im not going to worry about it.

vince

After the Peavy deal (and before the season fell apart), I had said this season reminds me of 2004 – the Sox almost sorta kinda in contention, picking up Garcia in the middle of the season, the eventual disappointment of fading down the stretch (hey it was like 2004).
I think we could have a 2005-caliber rotation next year. Maybe even better (hopefully it will be, because we’re going to need it). I don’t see KW trading away the strength of this team. But he’s always predictable.

knoxfire30

MB has been a relative bargain considering some of the bad money thrown at mediocre pitchers let alone guys like mark who are well above average.
I see no possible outcome of moving mark, 1 he signed a discounted contract to be here, 2 lefties who always take the hill and give you 200 quality innings every year dont grow on trees, 3 when in the world has kenny williams ever made a white flag deal on july 15th? No contending team is going to give you a stud corner outfielder that they would theroetically need and no non contending team is going to trade someone of high value for a pitcher who has a ton of miles on him with an escalating contract should he be traded. Thus the only time Mark could be traded would be this offseason and that simply isnt going to happen this team is going all out on the rotation in hopes of having so much starting pitching that at some point the offense will click and the team will go on a nice run in 2010.
Also, PK was a breaking down 1b who could hit a little but did nothing else, MB is a crafty lefty whose numbers are spot on to what they have been. A lot easier to find a 1b then a quality starter in my opinion so I think those situations are a lot different.

striker

Is this pick on striker week? You are making me very afraid to share my true feelings 🙂
I don’t recall saying we should deal a starter. If I did then I take back my words. I do recall talking about letting Freddy go but like everyone else mentioned it’s a low risk/high reward gamble that’s worth it. I’d like to see Hudson on the team in 2010 but he’ll have to beat out Freddy in spring training for a starting spot, rightly so.
I would never even consider moving Mark Buehrle unless he was at the end of his time and the Cardinals wanted him (ala Jim Thome). Who knows what Kenny will do though. He let two of the best players in White Sox history walk (Thomas & Ordonez). Both ended up being good moves.
I would like to see Konerko dealt (only if it brought back something of value) or at least moved down in the lineup. He just isn’t the run producer he used to be. We need more consistency in our #3 and #4 spots. I’m not a fan of Pierzynski batting 3rd either. I’d rather see Quentin bat .230 in the #3 spot.
We got lucky with an awesome bullpen in 2005. Our 2010 and 2005 rotations were/will be awesome but the jury is still out on the 2010 bullpen. Polite, Cotts, Hermanson and even Jenks all overachieved in 2005. Hopefully we get that in 2010.

soxfan1

Mark Buehrle IS the White Sox franchise player. There is no one more loved than he is. Let’s keep our 4 starting pitchers and build around them. My fear of Kenny standing pat is strictly coming from payroll. If Jerry cuts the payroll to ~$90mil because of decreased attendance, Kenny is in a tough spot. He already has ~$70mil committed to about 11 guys. That’s not much room to play with.

striker

Well argued Knox. I don’t think he’s worth the risk regardless. Look at the criticism KW is getting already for trading for Rios and he only played like 30 games with the cursed Sox. Besides that, Kenny shops at flea markets not at Sachs.