This past week, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post first reported that the Nationals may have some interest in veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle. It makes sense to believe that the Nationals could pursue Buehrle, as Mike Rizzo wants “a guy that has shown he’s a good leader, that can win in the big leagues.” This has certainly been the case for the 32-year old, as he has averaged a 15-11 record per season in his first 12 years with the Chicago White Sox.
Who wouldn’t want someone as successful as Mark Buehrle?
Buehrle makes as much sense as anyone on the market for Washington. He won’t be top price (maybe 2/3 years, $12M per season), which would give the Nationals a chance to go out and spend some more money elsewhere. They could go out and sign Edwin Jackson, and then have some money left over to add bench players, a center fielder, and hey, even C.J. Wilson or Prince Fielder if they were feeling good that day.
But, money isn’t the only factor in signing Buerhle. Now that Livan Hernandez is gone, the only true veteran pitcher in the rotation is Chien-Ming Wang. Wang will be focused on staying healthy and remaining in the rotation, so being a clubhouse leader/mentor will not exactly be his first priority. That’s where Buehrle comes in. He brings years of experience and an impressive of a resume to the table. He has pitched in a World Series and has thrown two no-hitters. That’s one more World Series and two more no-hitters than all the Nationals pitchers (with the exception of Wang with the ’09 WS) combined.
The Nationals will want to have Buehrle influence the younger players. Signing him to a 3 or 4 year deal may motivate him to do so, since he will care more about their success long-term, as it will affect his team’s performance for multiple years. The Nationals will want to stick Buehrle in a training room with Tom Milone, Brad Peacock, and Stephen Strasburg for 4 hours, and hope it works, because he will teach them all one thing: off-speed pitch dominance. Strasburg and Peacock have shown they can dominate with their fastball, and Strasburg has a good curve and changeup as well. But, imagine Strasburg with one of the best curveballs in the game. Perhaps 20 K’s a game? And giving Peacock a better changeup will make him more “starting material,” instead of a hard-throwing bullpen arm with lots of stamina. And with Tom Milone, Buehrle can reveal his secrets on dominating hitters when your fastball sits below 94 MPH. Simply put: Buehrle makes everyone better.
The key thing that Buehrle has is that he can give a team 200 innings in a season. 200 good innings. This is something that, other than maybe Chien-Ming Wang and Jordan Zimmermann, no one in the Nationals organization can offer. Last year Hernandez was on pace to pitch 200, but he was shut down in early September. Hernandez is gone now, so the young Nationals will need someone without a pitch limit that can go in and guarantee 6 or 7 quality innings 9 out of 10 times. Buehrle is a true performer, and the front-line pitcher that the Nationals needs to put themselves into contention.
Wouldn’t you come see him pitch?