CHICAGO -- A wait-and-see approach currently employed by the White Sox in regard to pursuing free agent Mark Buehrle ultimately might not be enough to bring back one of the organization's greatest all-time hurlers.
"Deservedly so, he seems to be a very popular free agent on the market," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams. "Perhaps even more popular than he even thought.
"So, again all we can do is wait until we get to the Winter Meetings. Then we'll have a better idea of where we sit and where he sits, and see if there's a match."
Buehrle finished a four-year, $56-million extension with another superbly consistent effort in 2011. It featured his 11th straight season of throwing at least 200 innings, with at least 30 games started and double-digit victories. Having never been a part of the free agent frenzy, the 32-year-old Buehrle didn't know what to expect from the process.
The man possessing the vast pitching knowledge to go with his mid-80s fastball and 161-119 career record even joked after a few rough outings that there might not be any offseason suitors for his services. Clearly, Buehrle was wrong, with Jeff Berry, his longtime representative, confirming strong interest.
Berry and White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn spoke last week, according to Williams.
"We've had the dialogue, let's say that," Williams said. "It's not that he doesn't understand what our position is right now. And we understand what his is.
"Mark is a good guy. He understands and he's a professional. He understands the business part of it."
Does that "understanding" mean that Buehrle knows the White Sox won't be able to match a high-end monetary offer from another team at three or four years? Or does that "understanding" mean that Buehrle realizes the only team he has known for 12 years will wait for the market to be set and then try to make a run at him in early December?
But will Buehrle's decision extend out until the annual winter get-together in Texas? Buehrle already had one confirmed meeting with the Marlins, and there has been reported interest from the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Nationals and Cubs.
With the White Sox still not quite set on their 2012 direction and looking to shed a little bit of salary, not to mention having seven potential starters on the staff, Buehrle could end up being a tough loss as part of this ongoing process.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.