Hartnett: Yankees’ Best Free Agent Bet Is Mark Buehrle
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By Sean Hartnett
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Mark Buehrle may not light up the radar gun like CC Sabathia and isn’t blessed with the electric stuff of A.J. Burnett but he’s exactly what the Yankees need. Buehrle has easily been one of the most consistent starters in major leagues since his 2000 debut and would provide immediate stability to any rotation.
The Yankees are in desperate need of reliability behind Sabathia and Ivan Nova. Sabathia is obviously the staff ace capable of winning 20 games in any given season while logging over 230 innings pitched. Nova took huge strides forward in 2011 and appears ready to continue that trend in 2012.
The erratic Burnett is a complete unknown. It’s hard to tell whether A.J. will be able to build upon one postseason start where he limited the Detroit Tigers to one earned run in 5.2 innings pitched. Even those solid numbers cannot be taken at face value. If not for Curtis Granderson’s multiple inning-saving catches, Burnett would have surrendered early runs and been pulled early by Joe Girardi.
There’s always a chance that Burnett rediscovers the mentality needed to give the Yankees solid outings but he hasn’t done much to prove he’s any but a 5.00 ERA headache. There are also questions about Phil Hughes’ velocity, command and overall health. The Bombers got what they could out of ‘scrap heap signings’ Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia but both suffered dismal Septembers. Each will receive substantial pay raises wherever they land in free agency but Garcia seems more likely to return and fill out the Yankees’ rotation.
All of these reasons make a strong case for why it is imperative that Brian Cashman beats his rivals to Buehrle’s signature. The fact that Buehrle hasn’t suffered any significant injuries and exceeds over 200 innings every year means that plenty of ballclubs will compete over landing the 4-time All-Star. A number of teams including the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and Florida Marlins are believed to have expressed a strong interest in Buehrle.
Already, the Marlins met with Buehrle and dangled their brand new ballpark in front of him as well as the possibility of joining free agent target Jose Reyes to begin a new chapter in the franchise’s history. Marlins’ manager Ozzie Guillen spent the last six seasons working with Buehrle in Chicago before bolting to Miami.
There’s also a strong possibility that Buehrle would consider taking less money to join the World Series champion Cardinals. If St. Louis can keep most of their roster intact and hold onto Albert Pujols, it would make sense for Buehrle to sign on with the defending champions without moving away from the Midwest. If the Texas Rangers lose C.J. Wilson in free agency, it will make their desperation to sign a starter of Buehrle’s caliber stronger.
Cashman must strike while the iron is hot and make Buehrle his number one priority. The Yankees can afford to wait on C.J. Wilson as they can always outbid their competitors with a last minute offer. Roy Oswalt is a superior pitcher to Buehrle but there are ‘red flag concerns’ about his chronic back issues. Edwin Jackson simply isn’t proven enough to be paid the money of a number two starter.
Buehrle makes too much sense for the Yankees and their well-documented need to bolster their rotation. They need another reliable lefty and that’s precisely what Buehrle has been throughout his career. He may not blow away hitters but he’s a career 3.83 ERA starter. Year after year, Buehrle gave the White Sox 200 solid innings and still has quite a few seasons left in his arm. He will turn 33 during Spring Training and it’s now just matter of which uniform he dons this off-season.
Yankee fans – should Buehrle be the Cashman’s no. 1 target or should he pursue Wilson, Oswalt or Jackson? Share your thoughts and opinions below. Sean Hartnett will be covering the Yankees’ hot stove all winter long. Send him your tweets @HartyLFC.