Hot Stove: Mark Buehrle Heads South to Miami
Thursday December 8th, 2011
The Miami Marlins came to the baseball's winter meetings looking to prove that they were serious about making the team a contender in 2012, and they continued that with another free agent deal on Wednesday afternoon. After already signing closer Heath Bell and 2011 National League batting champion Jose Reyes in the past week, they addressed their starting rotation needs by inking lefthander Mark Buehrle to a four-year contract worth $58 million.
Buehrle broke into the major leagues as a rookie in 2000 and has spent his entire career, until now, with the Chicago White Sox. While in Chicago, he threw two no-hitters (one of which was the eighteenth perfect game in major league history) and he ranks in the top ten in many of the franchise's starting pitching categories, including strikeouts, wins, games started and innings pitched.
Prior to and throughout the winter meetings, the five-time All-Star was reportedly drawing interest from as many as 14 teams, according to Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman. The Marlins offer of a four-year contract seemed to be the deciding reason that the 32 year-old lefty went to Miami.
Heading to South Beach also reunites the southpaw with former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. It is obvious Guillen knows what he is getting in Buehrle, and he's likely counting on him to be a reliable pitcher who can control the strike zone and induce a lot of ground balls. Since his first full season as a starter in 2001, Buehrle has thrown at least 201 innings per season and topped out at 245.1 innings pitched in 2004. Throughout his career, Buerhle has also been able to control the strike zone and allowed an average of just 2.05 walks per nine innings pitched and induced ground balls on 45.9 percent of balls put into play against him.
Fans worried about Buehrle's declining performances during the past few seasons shouldn't be too concerned with inconsistency, as his 2011 performance is in line with his career averages and his numbers have not fluctuated much throughout his career.
This signing makes a lot of sense for the Marlins, and for many reasons. The improved defense on the left side of their infield (with Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes) will play perfectly into Buehrle's ground ball numbers. Also, his addition gives the club a reliable veteran who has been in many pressure situations throughout the playoffs and World Series. Finally, he has excellent numbers against National League teams in interleague play, with a 24-6 win-loss record, a 3.21 ERA, and a 1.20 WHIP.
From a fantasy standpoint, Buehrle's value will essentially be the same as it was last season. He isn't a top option because his low strikeout rate devalues him when compared to colleagues with similar ERA, WHIP and win totals, but in a mixed league he is a good middle to end-of-the-rotation pitching option, especially if an owner's first two fantasy starting pitchers are high-strikeout guys. In NL-only leagues, Buehrle should be one of the first options selected after the high-strikeout starters are off the board.
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