Buehrle signs with Marlins

Buehrle signs with Marlins
December 7, 2011, 10:04 pm
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Updated at 5:23 p.m.
DALLAS -- The Nationals made Mark Buehrle their No. 1 -- and only -- free-agent pitching target. They made their case to the veteran left-hander in person at his St. Louis home last month and then again this week to his agent at the Winter Meetings. Within the last hour, general manager Mike Rizzo felt good about his club's chances of landing the hurler.

It appears that was all for naught.

Buehrle has agreed to a four-year, 58 million contract with the Miami Marlins, a source familiar with the deal confirmed this afternoon, ending the Nationals' quest to add another front-line starter to a rotation that already features young aces Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.

The exact terms of the Nationals' final offer to Buehrle aren't known, but sources said they offered at least three years at a comparable annual salary rate (roughly 14 million). It's unclear if they matched the Marlins' offer of a fourth year.

With Buehrle apparently off the open market, the Nationals will have to decide whether to pursue another veteran starter via free agency or a trade. Rizzo suggested this afternoon that Buehrle was his only pitching target, and that he'd otherwise be comfortable going into spring training with his rotation as it currently stands: Strasburg, Zimmermann, Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan and Ross Detwiler.

"We feel we have good depth at starting pitching right now with what we have in-house," Rizzo said before learning of the Buehrle deal. "Mark was our Plan A free agent. We liked his fit for us. He's the main free agent acquisition target that we've had, and we'll see where that leads us."

Asked specifically whether right-hander Roy Oswalt could be a backup option if they failed to sign Buehrle, Rizzo replied: "No, Mark is our free agent target."