White Sox keep ace Buehrle with four-year deal

CHICAGO -- Mark Buehrle is staying with the
White Sox.

The left-hander agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal Sunday,
ending weeks of trade speculation about Chicago's best pitcher.

Mark Buehrle


Starting Pitcher
Chicago White Sox


Fans at Sunday's game were told over the public address system
that Buehrle had signed as the White Sox left the field following a
6-3 win over the Minnesota Twins. In the eighth inning, Buehrle was
seen in the dugout hugging manager Ozzie Guillen and his teammates.

"Knowing that he's going to be here takes a load off everyone.
What a happy day. It's pretty cool," Chicago's Jim Thome said.
"You play with guys, and when this time of year comes around, you
always hear different rumors."

Now they'll go away, at least for Buehrle.

A three-time All-Star, he could have been a free agent after
this season. Earlier talks stalled over a no-trade clause that
Buehrle wanted. And with the White Sox struggling this season just
two years after winning the World Series, Buehrle's name popped up
often in trade rumors.

He is 6-4 this season with a 3.03 ERA. His career record is
103-70 with a 3.77 ERA. A 38th-round draft pick in 1998, Buehrle
broke in with the White Sox in 2000.

Buehrle said he didn't get a complete no-trade clause but there
are provisions to compensate for that. His contract calls for $14
million in each of the four years. He has a no-trade provision in
the first season. If he is traded during a window in the second or
third seasons, the annual salary goes to $15 million that year and
a fifth season is added, also at $15 million.

"My thinking was I wanted to be guaranteed I was going to be
here for four years," the 28-year-old Buehrle said. "And there
are some options put in there and some things that if I do get
traded, stuff works out for me. ... Both sides had to give in."

Buehrle could have tested the free agent market but made it
clear that he wanted to stay with the White Sox, although Saturday
he said his chances of doing that were about 50-50. He also said he
wanted to have his situation resolved quickly.

"The perception is he could have gotten X amount of dollars. So
what we did was try to bridge the gap and make it work for
everyone," general manager Ken Williams said in a teleconference
call from San Francisco, site of the All-Star Game.

"If he hadn't accomplished all the things he has thus far and
we didn't have a certain amount of confidence that he will maintain
that high level then we wouldn't have entered into this agreement
and I would have taken the blow and moved on and gone onto other
things and tried to build up differently."

Buehrle slumped in the second half a year ago, finishing 12-13 --
his only losing mark in the majors. It appeared the stress of six
straight seasons of more than 200 innings had began to show, even
if he is not a power pitcher.

But this year, he's been a steady force for a disappointing
White Sox team that hit the All-Star break with a 39-47 record. He
also pitched a no-hitter on April 18 against the Rangers.

"We have a great comfort in where we're going and where he's
going and it just made sense for us at this point," Williams said.

"I think ultimately the difference was providing Mark a little
security in that, yes we have the four-year deal in place, but
we've also given another year in the event that he is traded, so he
really does not lose out on what he potentially could have gotten
on the open market as a free agent.

"He expressed some desire to stay with us and we tried to make
as many concessions as we could without hurting our future and
ability to maneuver."

Buehrle said he was glad to have the process behind him, so he
can relax during the All-Star break and not worry about his phone
ringing. He said he was also tired of talking about it his future
on almost a daily basis and potentially becoming a distraction for
his teammates.

"I can go to bed knowing that I'll be here. I'm happy with the
deal. Hopefully they are too," he said.