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Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Mark Buehrle makes sense for Texas

By Richard Durrett

DALLAS -- As Day 2 at the Winter Meetings begins, the two biggest free agent starting pitchers remain on the market.

The Rangers are interested in both and are expected to meet with C.J. Wilson's agent, Bob Garber, today. They should also meet with representatives of Mark Buehrle this week as well.

Texas could certainly bolster its staff by adding one of the two pitchers and if the market for Wilson ends up including six years, that means Buehrle makes even more sense. The Rangers have always been hesitant to give pitchers long-term deals of that length and Buehrle, who is 20 months older than Wilson, won't likely require such a long deal. If he could be signed in the 3-year range at $40 million or so, that might fit in with the club's budget and still allow them the future flexibility to address the core players that will need to be re-signed.

Buehrle has a 5-2 mark and a 3.86 ERA in 51 1/3 innings in eight games (seven starts) in his career at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. That includes a complete game. He also threw a no-hitter against the Rangers in Chicago on April 18, 2007.

Buehrle was 13-9 with a 3.59 ERA in 2011, pitching 205 1/3 innings in 31 starts. It was his third consecutive season with 13 wins (he's had at least 13 wins in nine of his 11 full seasons and at least 15 wins five times).

What makes him even more attractive is his durability. Buehrle has thrown at least 200 innings and made 30 starts in all 11 of his full seasons. He's a ground ball pitcher that fields his position well, something the Rangers are especially focused on with their pitchers this season (see Greg Maddux's hiring as a coach that will help with fielding in spring training). Buerhle has induced 274 double plays and has 230 quality starts since 2001, the most of any pitcher in the league in that span. He also leads the league in starts and innings pitched since 2001.

In other words: He's a logical pitcher for the Rangers to pursue. He apparently has interest from 14 teams, but I wonder if the lure of pitching for a team clearly capable of winning the championship might get the Rangers closre to the top of that list before negotiations get really serious. We'll see.