Team makes announcement after Sunday’s win over Twins
CHICAGO — At 3:28 p.m CT on Sunday afternoon, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire watched his pregame hopes officially get dashed. And those hopes had nothing to do with Sunday’s outcome of the series finale between his Twins and the host White Sox.
But Gardenhire’s wishes can be dealt with later in this tale.
Instead, it was White Sox public address announcer Gene Honda who spoke the sentence anxiously awaited for, but not truly anticipated, by the 32,724 in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field and the massive number of White Sox fans across the country.
“Attention fans. We have important news to announce,” said Honda, after Javier Vazquez struck out Jason Kubel to end a 6-3 victory.
White Sox players still were milling about near their dugout when Honda completed his statement — Mark Buehrle and the White Sox had agreed to a four-year contract extension, beginning in 2008, worth $56 million.
A team spokesman said Sunday that the Buehrle extension literally was finalized moments before the crowd was informed, although Buehrle was seen hugging his teammates and manager Ozzie Guillen in the home dugout in the eighth inning.
“We all kind of knew, but didn’t know in that kind of way,” said White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, who heard the official words concerning Buehrle as he was trotting in from the bullpen. “You have a feeling about those things. It would be tough to let a guy like him go in the first place.”
“What a great day,” added White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome of Buehrle’s new contract and the team’s second straight victory. “To get this, knowing that he’s going to be here, it takes a lot of the load off everyone. What a happy day.”
How did Sunday’s euphoria involving Buehrle develop out of Saturday’s post-mortem, in which even Buehrle thought his next start with the White Sox in Baltimore only had a “50-50” chance of happening? Buehrle even said during Sunday’s press conference that some conversations Saturday morning made him even question if his start that day was going to take place.
More importantly, how did two sides apparently unwilling to budge over a no-trade clause come to an understanding to get this important contract agreed upon? These long and complicated negotiations actually came to a relatively simple solution.
Both sides wanted Buehrle to stay in Chicago and came up with the compromises to make it happen.
“There were a lot of people who had to be involved in working to get this done,” said Buehrle before heading back home to Missouri for the All-Star break. “My agent [Jeff Berry], he works for me and listened to us. Me and my wife [Jamie] realized how much we wanted to stay here.
“Obviously, it came from the White Sox side, too. [General manager] Kenny [Williams], [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf], [assistant general manager] Rick [Hahn], all those guys. It takes two sides to get something done.”
Williams, on a conference call from the XM All-Star Futures Game in San Francisco, echoed Buehrle’s sentiment on the mutual give and take. The talks picked up Saturday night, just when the last drops of hope seemed to be drained from Buehrle re-signing, and continued on into Sunday morning.
“I have to applaud Mark Buehrle and his camp on the way that he’s handled this entire situation,” Williams said. “Without the extreme love for the city and the desire to remain a White Sox, this would not have gotten done.
“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. It just kind of came together.”
According to the current market value, Buehrle made a concession in regard to years and money given for a 28-year-old, front-end starter featuring a 103-70 career record with a 3.77 ERA. In return, Buehrle wanted to ensure his stay in Chicago would cover all four years. Buehrle has full trade protection in the first year and has the same once again in July 2010, when he becomes a 10-and-5 player and has a trade veto.
Instead of granting the full no-trade clause to Buehrle for the remaining 18 months of the contract, the White Sox added a trade escalator. If the White Sox trade Buehrle, his salary for the remaining years on the contract immediately goes up to $15 million per season, and a fifth year at $15 million also kicks in.
Those escalators could bring the value of Buehrle’s contract to $74 million in total, a deal bringing great satisfaction to Buehrle’s side.
“Obviously, if I didn’t think it was fair, we wouldn’t have signed it,” said Buehrle, who receives limited trade protection with teams he can’t be traded to, even during the 18-month window.
“I talked to Rick and Jerry. They said at the end of the day, if you aren’t going to be happy with it, we don’t want you signing it,” Buehrle added. “I can go to bed knowing I’m going to be her,e and I’m happy with the deal. I hope they are too. I just hope I’m here for the full four years.”
That particular hope goes strongly against the desire expressed by a jovial Gardenhire during his pregame chat with the media. The affable Minnesota manager, whose team has lost more times to Buehrle than any other in baseball, said he wouldn’t mind seeing the crafty left-hander going to the National League, let alone another division in the American League.
Then again, Gardenhire inadvertently served as a harbinger of good things for the White Sox when he continued on about Buehrle and his relationship with the only team he has ever known.
“You know what, I think he’s very special here with the White Sox fans,” Gardenhire said. “I hate to see guys leave who have been with a team forever. He’s grown up in this organization and it would be nice if they could sign him. Not nice for us, but nice for this organization and this town, because he’s been pretty good here.”
Mission accomplished. Through that mission, everyone from Buehrle to the White Sox organization to the players to the fans seemed to get what they want — their face of the franchise for four more years.
“Just to get it out there, and I can go home these three days and not worry about my phone ringing and saying I’ve been traded, or anything like that,” Buehrle said. “It’s a definite relief. I can go home and kind of relax these three days and get away from everything and forget about baseball for three days.”
“He deserves it,” added Jon Garland, Buehrle’s friend and fellow member of this steady starting rotation. “This was the place he needed to stay.”
Photo and Source courtesy of MLB.com