Fans at the Cell find out minutes after the deal goes down that star pitcher will stay in Chicago.
At exactly 3:28 p.m. Sunday afternoon, White Sox public address announcer Gene Honda’s voice rang over the speakers at U.S. Cellular Field:
“Attention, fans, we have important news to announce.”
With that, so ended two weeks of craziness.
Literally seconds after the Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 6-3, it was announced to the crowd of 32,970 and the rest of the world they had signed Mark Buehrle to a four-year contract extension.
“We talked last night. We talked this morning. It pretty much got done about two minutes before they announced it on the scoreboard,” Buehrle said.
“There were a lot of people who had to be involved in working this to get this done. My agent, he works for me and listened to us. Me and my wife (Jamie) realized how much we wanted to stay here.
“It’s a definite relief.”
The deal is the four-year, $56 million extension that had been widely reported. It contains a no-trade clause in the first year. There is then an 18-month window during which Buehrle has limited trade protection before he becomes a “10-and-5” player and thus eligible to veto any trade.
The big holdup had been a full no-trade clause, which the two sides worked around by arranging a trade escalator.
If Buehrle does get traded, his annual salary goes up $1 million for every year after the trade, and a fifth year at $15 million automatically kicks in.
The deal also includes a no-trade clause for the rest of this season.
“I think ultimately the difference was providing Mark a little security in that, yes, we have the four-year deal in place, but we’ve also given another year in the event that he is traded, so he really does not lose out on what he potentially could have gotten on the open market as a free agent,” Sox general manager Ken Williams said via conference call from the Futures Game in San Francisco.
“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.”
As late as Saturday night, it looked like Buehrle had just pitched his last game as a member of the Sox.
“Yesterday, I did,” Buehrle said when asked if he thought Saturday would be his last game on the South Side. “I really did. There was conversation that went on where I was questioning my start yesterday. It’s over, and hopefully I’ll be here for four.”
The two sides began negotiating anew after the start, working Saturday night and Sunday morning, with both sides admitting they made concessions to make the deal work.
Finally, Buehrle went into the Sox dugout in the eighth inning Sunday and began hugging teammates and coaches.
The Sox went out onto the field after the final pitch and began shaking hands. That’s when the Sox got the final word that the deal was done, and Honda got to inform the ecstatic crowd of the news.
“I’ve been discouraged and optimistic, kind of on a little bit of a roller coaster this entire time,” Williams said.
There had been a public outcry to re-sign the left-hander, who is 103-70 with a 3.77 ERA in eight seasons with the Sox, but Williams said it had nothing to do with giving Buehrle the extension.
“I can’t afford to do that,” the GM said. “I’m used to being the bad guy wearing the black hat, so to speak. The nature of this job is such that you’re going to make some very unpopular decisions and people are going to have their opinions of you one way or another.”
The Sox are 39-47 and 13 games back in the American League Central, but players said the announcement immediately brightened things up.
“We haven’t had a ton to smile about the whole first half, but today was a great day,” captain Paul Konerko said. “Everybody is thrilled about Mark, and you can already tell it’s given the team a lift.
“No question, for the guys who are left behind, it’s nice to see the front office keeping guys. Times are bad right now, we know that. It’s definitely nice to see them sticking by us.”
After the announcement, Williams even went so far as to say he hopes to soon be in a “buyer’s” mode.
“To get this, knowing that he’s going to be here, takes a lot of load off everyone,” designated hitter Jim Thome said. “What a happy day. It’s pretty cool. You play with guys, and when this time of year comes around, you always hear different rumors. What a great day. What a great day.”
Buehrle has thrown a no-hitter and earned his 100th career win this season, but now he has the icing on the cake.
“I talked to (assistant GM Rick Hahn) and (chairman Jerry Reinsdorf),” said Buehrle, who is 6-4 with a 3.03 ERA this year. “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.
“I can go to bed knowing I’m going to be here and I’m happy with the deal. I hope they are, too.”
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