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Mark Buehrle isn’t gone yet, but odds of him with Sox aren’t good

Free agent Mark Buehrle has received interest from least 11 teams. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Free agent Mark Buehrle has received interest from at least 11 teams. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 26, 2011 9:05AM



White Sox players are no strangers to uncertainty.

Heck, it was just last offseason that they shook hands with it — and even offered it a guest room — heading into the winter meetings.

Then chairman Jerry Reinsdorf stepped in with his checkbook. He gave his OK on landing big-ticket free agent Adam Dunn and on re-signing veterans A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko.

But that was last year. The feeling in the air is very different this winter.

And with the winter meetings just more than a week away, there is a strong suspicion there will be no last-minute call from Gov. Reinsdorf to stop iconic pitcher Mark Buehrle from signing a free-agent deal elsewhere.

That’s not exactly the best feeling for a few Sox to be dealing with.

‘‘There’s a whole lot out of my hands in this thing,’’ reliever Matt Thornton said in a phone interview. ‘‘As a player, you want to be on a team that gets better, and losing Mark Buehrle does not make us a better team. Obviously, it’s not my call. But . . . his consistency is as damn near close to a guarantee as you get.

‘‘ . . . But who knows? Maybe Jerry and [general manager] Kenny [Williams] sit back and watch the market, then say,
‘Hey, we’ll match what any team offers you.’ Maybe. But that’s huge if we lose Buehrle.’’

‘‘Huge’’ might be coming.

The Sox announced Wednesday they had offered arbitration to Buehrle, making sure they will receive some compensation if he signs elsewhere. He is a Type B free agent, so the Sox would get an extra pick between the first and second rounds of the June draft if he departs.

What has become apparent is that the Sox made a small miscalculation on what the market for Buehrle would be like. According to a source, the Sox thought that there would be five or six teams interested in him and that a two-year deal would get it done.

Well, the Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals and even the Cubs have given them a reality check. The list of interested teams continues to grow, and several three-year offers have come in already.

How would Sox fans like to watch Buehrle in a Cubs uniform, allowing three runs and seven hits in seven innings every fifth day? Or turn on a Marlins game and see him joking with manager Ozzie Guillen in the dugout?

It’s bad enough Williams has embraced the idea of taking his team ‘‘stealth’’ in terms of the off-the-field circus that kept the Sox relevant, but making them ‘‘stealth’’ in the standings is never a good thing.

Does starter-in-waiting Chris Sale have starter-type stuff? Absolutely. But like far too many players on the Sox’ roster heading into the 2012 season, it’s more a wing and a prayer.

That’s the problem with the Sox right now: The only thing they are certain about as far as their roster is Konerko. Run out and buy your season tickets based on that.

‘‘Things just don’t faze him,’’ Thornton said of Buehrle. ‘‘I mean, in the clubhouse, we can be in the heat of a pennant chase, and he acts exactly the same. He’s been in the most pressure-packed situations — a perfect game, a no-hitter, starting a game in the World Series, saving a game in the World Series. There is no market value for that on what Mark can do.’’

As far as a comment from the Buehrle camp, agent Jeff Berry said via text Thursday that he wants to stay mum. Makes sense, considering Buehrle is 32 and is set to make what might be his last big payday with this deal.

Could that deal still be with the Sox? I wouldn’t count on it. Reinsdorf only can try to save the day so many times.



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