Last week Rizzo said he wanted a veteran guy for the staff who could show the youngsters on the team " how to pitch 200 innings in a season many, many times in your career."
Most people read that as "We want Mark Buehrle", which is fine. Assuming the deal is fair and not for too long you could easily do worse and you know how I love the AL -> NL ptichers. But what if he meant someone else and is kind of setting up the fanbase for the switcheroo if he can't get Mark? Who else is there that fits that bill?
The first question is how many seasons is "many, many". Certainly more than 5. I'm thinking that is the threshold for a single "many". 6? 7? Let's say 7. And let's not limit it to strictly 200+, because I don't want an errant couple of 196 and 192 seasons to knock someone off this list. Let's go 190+. How many pitchers fit that bill - 7 seasons or more of 190+ innings pitched? Turns out it's 18.*
We can rule out several. Sabathia, Halladay, and Hudson aren't going anywhere. I can't see the Brewers dealing Wolf, or Angels dealing Haren now. If he wanted Livan he could have signed him. Even if you liked him, Zito's contract is still too terrible to pick up, same with Arroyo. The Indians seem to want Lowe's last year. So that leaves 8 other guys that aren't Mark Buehrle, and all but one are free agents.
I'll go ahead and knock off two more since I doubt Jeff Suppan (8) and Ryan Dempster (7) fit Rizzo's description well. Suppan isn't a winner or leader but a back of the rotation innings eater. Dempster spent half his career in the pen and doesn't seem to be the type to teach guys about consistently pitching 200 innings. Plus he's the guy with the (expensive) year left. Who's left?
Mark Buehrle (11 times meeting my criteria) - broken 200IP every season he's started. Definite "leader" type. Certainly a strong possibility
Javy Vazquez (11) - after a horrid start pitched very well to end the year in Florida. There's an inconsitency here though that has to be worrying, and has he ever been the leader of his staff? Should get a pretty nice deal too. On the doubtful side.
Jon Garland (8) - again not a leader, injured last year and really a West Coast guy through and through. No chance.
Kevin Millwood (8) - After nobody wanted him finally caught on with the Rockies and did pretty well. Pitched 198 innings in 2009 but really hasn't been consitently reliable since 2003. Was a staff leader for a while. Seems doubtful.
Roy Oswalt (7) - great pitcher who fits the leadership criteria. Injured last year though and Rizzo kind of hinted the guy he's looking for may not have the "best stuff" Oswalt's stuff is great. A better pitcher than Buehrle but Buehrle sounds more like Rizzo's guy.
Bartolo Colon (7) - A workhorse in his younger days, last broke 200 in 2005. This year was his first year of close to full season starting since then so it's hard to bet on him helping a rotation for a full year. Pretty old now (38) and would you call him a leader?
Freddy Garcia (7) - Similar to Colon, except more of a leader and more dependable right now. Dark horse emergency candidate.**
Even with more pitchers being FAs than I would have imagined, it's pretty clear he was talking about Buehrle. You have to think he's the target with an outside chance of it being Oswalt. If they lose out on both those guys, you might see a cheap deal offered to Garcia or maaaaybe Millwood, if Rizzo is committed to get exactly the type of pitcher he said he was looking for.
*interesting to me side note #1 - at 6 seasons you find both Matt Cain (27 next year) and Felix Hernandez (26). These guys are studs. Cain will be a FA next year. Just saying.
**interesting to me side note #2 - the 2006 White Sox rotation featured Garcia, Buehrle, Garland
AND Vazquez. All broke 200 IP. The 5th pitcher was Jose Contreras who
gave them 196 innings. Only one start came from someone outside these 5.
Why didn't they win? It was Buerhle and Garcia's worst years up to that
point and Vazquez's second worst (and Garland and Contreras weren't
that good to begin with)