Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reported earlier this week that sources of his who are familiar with the Nationals believe the club will pursue veteran starting pitcher Mark Buerhle.
Buerhle, 32, has been a staple with the Chicago White Sox for the past 12 seasons and is about to come off of a four-year $56 million deal that saw him earn $14 million each season since 2008. While the number in his age column may have risen over the duration of that contract, his other numbers have stayed relatively consistent, which likely indicates the former All-Star is not likely to take a huge pay decrease.
The left-hander reportedly will receive at least a two-year offer from the White Sox, which means for him to leave the one team he has played for his entire career he will likely need the guarantee of a third year and at least the same amount of money. According to some reports he has said that he has some interest in trying to pitch in the National League for the first time in his career, however, he may have been alluding to playing for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, whom he watched growing up.
Despite his age, a three-year contract for Buehrle may not be that much of a risk. Aside from his sturdy 6’2” 230 pound frame, his pitching style is based on finesse, not power. In fact, Buehrle is one of the slowest everyday starting pitchers in the league, with a fastball that has never in his entire career averaged above 90 miles per hour. To me this indicates that like Livan Hernadnez and Jamie Moyer, if the lefty wanted to, he could pitch a long, long time.
In 12 seasons with Chicago, Buehrle has posted a 161-119 record with a 3.83 ERA. He’s been incredibly consistent, too. He’s only posted an ERA above 4.30 once, and an ERA below 3.50 twice. While on one hand that tends to limit the expected upside we could expect from a pitcher like Buehrle, it also means that we aren’t likely to be in for any negative surprises either.
My best guess is what really attracts a guy like Buehrle to Mike Rizzo is two things. His ability to eat up innings (he’s never thrown less than 200 innings in a season since he became a starter in 2001), and his ability to pitch to contact. Buehrle’s K/9 over his career has been 5.07, which isn’t stellar, but he induces 45% ground balls and his fly balls have tended to stay in the park (so far).
In short, Buehrle could be a dream come true for Rizzo who endlessly seems to be looking for an innings eating veteran starter. The lefty can be effective once every five games and give the bullpen a rest.