MLB Free Agents 2012: The Chicago Cubs Rivalry Steal Could Be Sox's Mark Buehrle

Jeff Chase@@Real_Jeff_ChaseSenior Analyst IIOctober 27, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 27:  Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle #56 of the Chicago White Sox smiles at a teammate during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field on September 27, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

While all the talk in Chicago before and after Theo Epstein joined the Chicago Cubs has been about Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, perhaps neither man is destined to join the lovable losers on the Northside.

In a recent press release, things seemed as if Epstein wasn't looking to reel in either one of these big free agents to his new team.

At first, many Cub fans will likely feel shocked, and even upset that the Cubs may not be major players for either of these guys.

There is an upside to the situation. Without committing major salary to one guy, the Cubs will be able to spread their money out to fix more than one hole. Fielder or Pujols would cost the Cubs a lot of money, and that cost would eliminate the Cubs from spreading that wealth into other much needed holes.

Trust me, there are plenty.

So where do the Cubs spend this "extra" money? Without a doubt, that money should go towards the Cubs' need in their starting rotation.

While most people will continue to hope that the Cubs will make a move to take one of their divisional rivals' star players, while weakening their opponent, perhaps the more likely scenario lies in the Cubs stealing a star from their American League rival, as well as in-state rival, the Chicago White Sox

The player of interest is left-handed starting pitcher Mark Buehrle. Even though he is now 32 years old, the Cubs are in much need of left-handed help in their starting rotation.

Texas Rangers' lefty CJ Wilson would be the ideal man for the Cubs' lefty woes, but at what cost?
Texas Rangers' lefty CJ Wilson would be the ideal man for the Cubs' lefty woes, but at what cost?Pool/Getty Images

Given the eventual departure of troubled pitcher Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs rotation will be looking like Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner. That fifth hole is yet to be filled, and more importantly, all four previously stated pitchers are right-handed.

The Cubs really need a southpaw, desperately.

The Texas Rangers' ace lefty C.J. Wilson is the ideal man to take this spot in the Cubs rotation, but after the season he has had, he will be demanding big money and that doesn't look to be the direction that Epstein wants to take right away.

Instead, Buehrle is a seasoned veteran who has played 12 seasons in the Chicago weather. He has played the day games and the cold games, so he has proven that he can handle what Chicago has to offer.

Comparing Wilson and Buehrle is like comparing apples to oranges, but if Wilson's demands are too high or if he ultimately decides to remain in Texas, the Cubs would be best to go with Buehrle. Buehrle is only two years older then Wilson, but he poses a much greater veteran presence than Wilson.

In Buehrle's 12 seasons with the White Sox, only once he had a losing record. Compared to his past, 2011 wasn't his best season, but he was still pretty good to his standards.

He went 13-9 with a 3.59 ERA. His 109 strike outs were nothing superb, but Buehrle has never been a strikeout pitcher. What he has been though is a workhorse, averaging 6.61 innings a start in 2011.

With a young bullpen, the Cubs could benefit from a veteran who has the ability to go late into the game.

Speaking of being a veteran, Buehrle would be a great piece to the Cubs' locker room. In 11 seasons with the White Sox, including many years playing under Ozzie Guillen, Buehrle has never been one to run his mouth or anything. He has always just been a hard worker, there to do his job.

The Sox haven't seen much success since they won their World Series in 2005, but still Buehrle was never one to complain about the team. That is something the Cubs really need in their young clubhouse while they try to reshape the image of this franchise.

Buehrle could also likely benefit from a change of scenery. The White Sox will be likely taking a new direction with Guillen gone, and who knows how much longer they will keep Kenny Williams in their front office. Perhaps the White Sox won't want to see him go, but Buehrle may see it as the best time to move on.

The one big question with Buehrle is what kind of money will he demand. At 32 years old, there is no doubt that his greatest days are behind him, but there is still likely a good amount left in his tank.

The Cubs shouldn't shell out the $14 million that Buehrle would be owed, but something more plausible over multiple years. This also depends on the market value that gets set, and where Buehrle and his agent sees himself comparing to those players. He is no CC Sabathia or Wilson, so it is hard to imagine him demanding that type of money, but we will see.

Compared to Fielder, Pujols and Wilson, Buehrle is obviously not as flashy an option. What he is though is a consistent player who will come in and help this come improve immediately. He may not be the guy that most Cub fans will want initially, but in the end, the move will be possibly one of the best moves the Cubs could pull off.

The Cubs would be smart to not overpay Buehrle, but if Wilson and Sabathia fall out of the market quick, Epstein and new GM Jed Hoyer will need to move quick on him in order to fulfill that need of a left-hander in the starting rotation.

Jeff Chase is from Chicago and is an undergrad at Arizona State University. He currently is interning with B/R and is in process of becoming a Featured Columnist for Arizona State football.

More Cubs Articles by Jeff Chase:

5 Pitchers the Cubs Should Target

Roy Oswalt is Great Fit for Chicago

How Long Till Theo Has Cubs Winning

Matt Kemp Should be Theo's First Move

5 Managers Theo Should Go After

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