Reinsdorf: White Sox could contend

CHICAGO -- It was after the Chicago White Sox traded closer Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday that it hit team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

"I was talking to [Blue Jays president] Paul Beeston," Reinsdorf said, "and I told him, 'It seems every time I like a player, he gets traded.' "

One day later, Reinsdorf and the Sox said goodbye to a cornerstone of the franchise when pitcher Mark Buehrle agreed to a four-year, $58 million deal with the Miami Marlins.

"He gave us a chance to keep him and I'm sure he would've taken less money to come back," Reinsdorf said of Buehrle. "He just didn't fit into our plans. That's the thing. You can't let personal feelings for players stand in the way of letting the general manager do what he feels is right for the team."

It might take Sox fans a little while longer to get over this past week, one that caused general manager Ken Williams to bring the word "rebuilding" out of mothballs while new manager Robin Ventura termed it "re-loading." For Reinsdorf, it might not have quite been business as usual but it was business, and he made it clear in a phone conversation Friday that he does not think it necessarily spells doom for his ballclub.

"I don't think we're rebuilding because rebuilding is when you get bad in order to get good," he said. "We fell short last season but we didn't fall a lot short. I think we could very well contend for the division if [Adam] Dunn and [Alex Rios] bounce back. And a guy I think will really bounce back is [Jake] Peavy because that's the history of guys the second year following injuries.

"I don't expect us to be bad."

Reinsdorf said it might surprise some people that he was happy for Buehrle, who at 32, leaves the Sox after 11 consecutive seasons of at least 10 victories, 30 starts and 200 innings, and counts among his highlights two no-hitters, including one perfect game.

"Mark was a 38th-round draft choice," Reinsdorf said. "We didn't expect very much from him or he wouldn't have gone that low, and when he finally made the big-league club, we looked at him as a reliever. I remember we were looking around for starters and someone said, 'Why don't we give Buehrle a shot?' Most people in the room [were skeptical] but the rest was history.

"He was able to locate his pitches, particularly his cutter. He wasn't a strikeout pitcher but his strikeouts weren't that bad. He's not a Hall of Fame pitcher by any means, but he's a real pro. He took the ball every single time and battled, was great in the clubhouse, caught first pitches, made appearances, was a great guy. He was perfect for our team."

Reinsdorf recalled "a private moment" with Buehrle in the Sox clubhouse before he signed his last contract with the Sox four years ago.

"It was getting down to the July 31 trading deadline and it looked like we were going to have to trade him if we couldn't get his contract done," Reinsdorf recalled. "We had a talk and fortunately we lucked out."

Fourteen teams reportedly expressed an interest in Buehrle this time around and he gave the Sox one last chance to match the Marlins' offer.

"At this stage of his career to get $58 million for four more years, it's a fabulous thing for him," Reinsdorf said. "It just didn't make any sense for us."

Reinsdorf said it was not his place to judge whether the Marlins overpaid or not for Buehrle, but that the Sox were thinking more in the range of three years, $30 million.

"I hate to use this expression," Reinsdorf said with a slight chuckle, "but we went all-in last year and it didn't work. It just doesn't make sense for us to make a four-year commitment to a pitcher of his age."

The White Sox payroll was $127 million last year, which they will have to pare down, but the club was not as active in trading at the winter meetings as Williams had hoped and he has put the Sox in a difficult situation with the seemingly bloated contracts of Dunn, Rios and Peavy.

"Re-tooling, fine-tuning, we're just trying to plan for the future," Reinsdorf said. "With the Santos trade, he's a good guy but we could replace him with a guy we think will be a front-line pitcher for a lot of years. You have to do those things. You have to be constantly fine-tuning."

Regardless of what his emotions may sometimes tell him.

"I have to let the general manager do what makes the most sense or I can't hold him accountable," Reinsdorf said. "If we kept all the players I liked personally, we'd be a lot worse team over the years. There comes a time when you have to move on."

Melissa Isaacson is a reporter for ESPNChicago.com.