At the site of the Marlins New Ballpark, the team introduced Mark Buehrle as its latest proven impact player. Miami reached agreement with Buehrle on a four-year, $58 million deal on Wednesday, and the 32-year-old left-hander passed his physical on Thursday.
Bringing in Buehrle concludes a benchmark week for the franchise. In the span of five days, the Marlins welcomed three All-Stars. Closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes signed earlier in the week, with their news conferences taking place at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. Now Buehrle.
The Big Three's combined cost is $191 million.
"This is a great way to end a week," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "Mark was actually our first free-agent visitor here in Miami. That's because he was the primary free-agent pitching target. We had his name circled for quite some time."
The lefty, who had spent his entire career with the White Sox, also reunites with Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who left Chicago in September after eight seasons. Guillen, a close friend of Buehrle, knew the secret to winning over Buehrle was to get his wife, Jamie, to approve.
"I don't have to convince Buehrle," Guillen said. "I have to convince his wife, Jamie. I had to convince her, because I know that family well.
"This kid is special. He's pitched in big scenarios, big moments and in a very tough city to pitch. When people love you in Chicago, that means a lot."
Friday marked the second time Buehrle stood on the grounds of the retractable-roof ballpark in Miami. At the start of the free-agent signing period in early November, Buehrle, along with his wife, and agent, Jeff Berry, met with team officials and toured South Beach.
"It's a special, crazy day for my wife and family, obviously, never going through this before. We're excited," Buehrle said Friday. "We're anxious. We're nervous. We have a lot of mixed emotions with this. But we're happy to get things going.
"For people who don't know me, I'm low-key. I like to have fun, and every five days, I go out there and try to give us a chance to win."
Adding Buehrle gives the Marlins another top-of-the-rotation starter and bolsters the team's playoff chances.
There was competition for his services on the market. The Nationals made a strong push and the Rangers also had interest. Returning to Chicago was another option. But the Marlins were able to seal the deal by adding a fourth year to the contract.
Upgrading their rotation was an offseason priority for the Marlins entering the Winter Meetings. They also made a six-year, $80 million offer to lefty C.J. Wilson, but he opted to sign with the Angels. To show their interest in Wilson, the Marlins were willing to add an option year that could have made the total package worth more than $100 million.
Buehrle brings impressive credentials to Miami, including a no-hitter against the Rangers in 2007 and a perfect game against the Rays in '09. He also won a World Series in '05.
A 38th-round Draft pick in 1998, Buehrle is a proven ace. He was 13-9 with a 3.59 ERA in 31 starts with the White Sox last season. A durable innings-eater, he threw 205 1/3 innings in 2011. And he is an established winner, boasting a 161-119 career record with a 3.83 ERA.
He has a string of 11 straight years of winning at least 10 games and tossing a minimum of 200 innings.
"Every starting pitcher wants to go out there and win 20 games," Buehrle said. "A lot of that is out of your control; run support, defense, bullpen has to hold your leads. I've always said going into a season, obviously, you want to stay healthy.
"If you put a goal of 200-plus innings, you're going to have a chance to win a lot of games. If you're going deep into games, you're going to have a chance to win. For me, that's a big goal of mine, to go out there and have 200 innings."
Buehrle also becomes a lefty threat in the rotation, something the Marlins lacked a year ago. Rookie Brad Hand's 12 starts were the only ones by a Miami southpaw.
In Chicago, Buehrle had long been an ace. He was the White Sox's Opening Day starter nine times in his 11 full seasons. He broke into the Majors in 2000.
Guillen says there is no disputing who will pitch on Opening Day. If healthy, it will be Josh Johnson, who will lead Miami's rotation. Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad will follow.
Recently, lefty Wade LeBlanc was obtained from the Padres for catcher John Baker, giving more experienced depth. And the search continues for perhaps another starting pitcher, either through free agency or trade.
With Buehrle putting a close to a busy, productive week, the Marlins now will regroup, refocus and decide what's next as they restructure their roster.
"We'll meet later today and talk and develop our plan from here," owner Jeffrey Loria said. "Each step of the way, you have another plan. We fill this need, we fill that need. We're going to look into what we can still look at."