MLB Free Agent Contract Prediction: Mark Buehrle

Multiple teams -- perhaps as many as 14 -- have inquired about the free-agent lefty. Where will he sign?

Lefthander Mark Buehrle has been a White Sox mainstay for 11 seasons. Along with first baseman Paul Konerko, Buehrle has become a franchise icon; he's been durable, and he's pitched in three postseasons for the Sox and has thrown two no-hitters, including a perfect game against the Rays on July 23, 2009.

The White Sox didn't make too much of an effort to extend Buehrle before the 2011 season ended, perhaps figuring that the market wouldn't be too large for a pitcher who, though he has had that durability, would be 33 years old before the 2012 season began.

The Sox figured wrong. According to MLB Trade Rumors, as many as 13 teams have inquired about Buehrle's services, perhaps pointing up how desperate some teams are to find pitching in this market. SI's Jon Heyman tweeted recently that it could be as many as 14 teams.

Buehrle, who is from near St. Louis, once talked -- no one knows how seriously -- about finishing his career for his hometown Cardinals. However, with all the money St. Louis has already spent on Matt Holliday and Chris Carpenter, among others, and the money they might have to shell out to keep Albert Pujols, it's unlikely they could afford to add Buehrle to their stable. St. Louis was on the list of teams mentioned in the MLBTR article, though.

A serious inquiry has been made by the Tigers this past week, according to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. But that doesn't appear to be anything more than an inquiry.

One of the most intriguing names on the MLBTR list is the Cubs. Buehrle had at times dissed the Cubs and their ballpark, but he and his wife Jamie have a home in the Chicago area and it would make a transition away from the White Sox easy. The Cubs have made no secret that they're looking for pitching; if the Cubs can get some salary relief from dealing either Carlos Zambrano or Alfonso Soriano (or both), they might be able to fit Buehrle into their budget. Ryan Dempster's $14 million comes off the Cubs' books at the end of 2012 (as does Zambrano's deal if he's not traded); that, too, might allow the Cubs to fit the former White Sox lefthander onto their payroll.

Plus, it would really frost White Sox fans. So I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Buehrle will pitch 2012 in Cubs pinstripes.

Prediction: Cubs, four years, $58 million.

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