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Saracen
03-04-2003, 07:20 AM
Link (http://chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/whitesox/cs-030303sox,1,3547234.story?coll=cs%2Dhome%2Dheadlin es)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Mark Buehrle contract situation took a curious turn Monday when the club decided to hold off on renewing him.

A day after informing Buehrle's agent, Jeff Berry, that his client would be renewed at $430,000, just $130,000 over baseball's minimum salary, Sox management reversed course and said it would continue efforts to hatch a multiyear contract.

Negotiations for a long-term deal have been so fruitless that Sox general manager Ken Williams said last month he had given up after three attempts.

Berry plans to meet with Sox officials Wednesday in Tucson. The deadline for having Buehrle under contract is March 11.

A multiyear deal will not be reached, Buehrle said, unless the Sox significantly boost their offer.

"I'm not against signing," he said. "But we just don't think the offer's right."

The Indians signed C.C. Sabathia to a four-year, $9.5 million deal in 2002 when their ace left-hander had only one year in the majors. Buehrle now has 2 years, 78 days of service time.

"Last year I told them if they gave me the C.C. Sabathia deal, I would have signed it," Buehrle said. "But they wouldn't even come close."

The Sox control Buehrle's rights through 2006, so it's not as if a contract dispute will result in the 19-game winner leaving for his hometown St. Louis Cardinals anytime soon.

The unflappable Buehrle insisted it also won't affect his performance this season.

"You can't let that kind of stuff bother you," he said. "If I let it bother me and go out and pitch [poorly] this year, I'm not going to get any money next year, or what I think I deserve."

It's more a matter of how the Sox want to treat their 24-year-old lefty ace.

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement gives the Sox the right to determine the salaries of players who have not attained enough service time to go to arbitration.

The Sox on Monday announced the signing of 23 players, including Jon Garland ($375,000) and D'Angelo Jimenez ($345,000).

If the pre-arbitration players do not agree to a contract, the Sox simply can renew their deal and name the price.

The Sox point out that their salary structure has resulted in only one renewal in the past five years, Buehrle last season.

But Buehrle's advocates say the Sox's scale falls well short of what other clubs pay their young players.

The Dodgers on Sunday renewed closer Eric Gagne at $550,000, an 83-percent raise over the $300,000 he made in 2002.

Buehrle was renewed at $310,000 last year after turning down an offer for $325,000.

The Cubs paid Kerry Wood $690,000 the season after he was named National League Rookie of the Year. And that was 1999.

Sabathia's 2002 deal called for a $1 million signing bonus followed by salaries of $450,000, $850,000, $2.45 million and $4.5 million plus incentives. A $7 million team option in 2006 would become guaranteed if he pitches 405 innings in 2004 and 2005 or 540 innings from 2003 through 2005.

"The agents are good at coming to us and saying: `I assume you're going to give them this [amount],'" said Rick Hahn, the Sox's assistant general manager. "Not all agents may feel that's appropriate in light of what's out there in the entire league. But they understand that this is what the White Sox do. It's better than some and it's less than some. But it's fair and consistent."

Or at least consistent.

The Sox arrived at their $430,000 figure based on what they paid Magglio Ordonez the year after his first All-Star season, 1999. Ordonez made $425,000 in 2000 and later signed a lucrative extension.

"What's important for us is that we're fair, not only in rewarding the players for what they've accomplished, but also being consistent year to year," Hahn said. "We want players to be able to look around the clubhouse and feel like they were treated fairly within the structure."

Buehrle understands the structure. He also understands that the Cardinals paid Albert Pujols $600,000 after his historic 2001 rookie season.

Buehrle, who won 19 games and logged 239 innings last season, said he will consult his parents and agent before deciding what to do.

"Maybe we'll find the right deal," he said. "It's not like I'm wanting to go to arbitration next year."

Asked if there's a danger in alienating a star player such as Buehrle, Hahn replied: "I don't think a disagreement at this stage is going to preclude any deal later as long as you continue to be consistent and fair. I doubt a player would ever go to arbitration for the sake of going to arbitration."
Copyright 2003, The Chicago Tribune