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Sign or trade? Buehrle saga continues

Sign or trade? Buehrle saga continues

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The ongoing tale of Mark Buehrle and whether he's staying with the White Sox via a new, multi-year contract or leaving soon via a trade sort of has become like the old saying concerning the weather in Chicago.

If you don't like what you are hearing now about Buehrle's situation, wait a few hours because it seemingly will change.

Buehrle's saga began this past weekend, when an article in the Sun-Times indicated how Boston had emerged as the frontrunner for Buehrle's services and how contract talks had been exhausted between Buehrle and the White Sox.

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By Wednesday morning, WSCR 670 AM, the White Sox flagship radio station, was reporting a new multi-year deal as close to being agreed upon between the two sides. This particular report would not be confirmed by the team, although general manager Ken Williams did confirm via e-mail that assistant general manager Rick Hahn was on his way to Tampa.

"There's no official announcement," a White Sox team spokesman said earlier on Wednesday. "Anything else is speculation."

According to The Score's speculation, the deal Buehrle and the White Sox were on the verge of agreeing to covered four years, at $50 million. Another source close to the situation said an option year also could be added.

At $12.5 million per year, Buehrle would seem to be a true bargain for the White Sox. The team signed Javier Vazquez to a three-year, $34.5 million extension during Spring Training, while the open market last offseason delivered a five-year, $55 million deal to Gil Meche and a four-year, $40 million deal to Ted Lilly. Buehrle's body of work arguably is more impressive than the aforementioned hurlers.

Even Barry Zito, who broke the bank with San Francisco at seven years, $126 million, has career statistics almost identical to the White Sox ace. Buehrle has never made his desire to stay in Chicago a secret, as well as finishing his career with the only team he has ever known. It's a sentiment shared by Buehrle's wife, Jamie, with the couple expecting its first son at the end of July.

Accepting a contract at what is perceived as less than true fair market value could draw criticism from the Major League Baseball Players Association. But White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made it clear during his pregame chat on Wednesday that Buehrle doesn't have to answer to anyone but himself and his family.

"That's his deal," said Guillen of Buehrle's contract talks. "Like I say, the Players Association and the agents and the system, let's put it this way, the system, they don't care about you. You just worry about what's best for your family.

"When I left Chicago [as a player], I was upset with the White Sox because I wanted to stay here because of my family. I wanted the best for my family and my kids to go to school there. I wanted my kids to grow up in Chicago. Everything is all about how your family is going to live.

"Like I told Mark a few minutes ago, I'm your friend but I work for this organization," Guillen added. "I want to work the best I can for both sides. No matter what decision you are going to make, I respect that decision. I respect it as a man."

Williams was grilled for close to 30 minutes prior to Sunday's series finale against the Cubs concerning possible moves he could make to change the current negative results coming from his team. With Buehrle bouncing back from a rough finish to the 2006 season, including his no-hitter on April 18, and the White Sox sitting 12 games out of a playoff spot entering Wednesday's contest, the free-agent-to-be after the 2007 season immediately became the most important bargaining chip on the open market.

Basically, Williams didn't want to trade Buehrle or didn't necessarily have to trade Buehrle, for that matter, if his asking price wasn't met. And Williams "asked for the moon," according to one source.

From the general manager's own account, moving Buehrle would have a far greater impact than simply a business move.

"It will be more difficult personally than from a business perspective -- a lot more difficult personally," said Williams on Sunday. "Because I like the man and I like his wife.

"I've sat with his mother and father. It was just last week he showed me the ultrasound of his baby. Yeah, it will be more difficult. Baseball-wise, you've got to do what you've got to do sometimes.

"Like I said, it still has to be something that, with anybody out there, it's got to be something that makes sense for us, both in the short term and the long term before we go down the road," Williams added. "It's not a given that will happen."

Deciding Buehrle's fate with the White Sox would have to happen soon, by the end of this current road trip, according to Guillen. If Buehrle indeed signs an extension, the White Sox would then probably move another veteran hurler such as Jose Contreras or Vazquez. Contreras has a no-trade clause, which he said he would wave on Wednesday, and Vazquez has a limited no-trade clause.

While Jeff Berry, Buehrle's agent, said there was nothing new to report as of Wednesday afternoon and didn't know where all the talk of the impending deals was coming, that talk could change soon if the last week has shown anything where Buehrle's situation is concerned.

"Mark [does not] want to leave," Guillen said. "If Mark [wants] to leave, he will say, 'I'll pitch my 10 games and go to the market and make my money.' [Is] ee going to stay? We don't know. [Is] he going to leave? I hope not."

As for Buehrle, the possible new deal could come just a few weeks ahead of the birth his first child. Buehrle recently told MLB.com that his impending family addition didn't cause him to have any more in-depth talks with Williams about speeding up the trade process to get his family settled.

"I can't really say, 'If you are going to trade me, trade me before she is due or after she is due,'" said Buehrle recently with a smile. "We didn't plan it too good, probably the worst time of the year, either now or during the World Series. We have to deal with it."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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