I had heard the rumors before I went to bed last night -- Mark Buehrle had rejected the Sox final offer and was back on the trade block -- but I didn't want to believe it was true. I was still confident the sides would reach a middle ground; there was too much dialog between the two sides, too many specifics in the media, too many signs pointing to a deal getting done for it to be so fragile as to crumble when the words "No-trade clause" were uttered.
As many of you have astutely pointed out in the comments, Buehrle would reach 10/5 status (10 years service time, 5 with the current team) with about a year and a half remaining on the proposed contract. That status would give him a full no-trade clause simply based on his service time and longevity with the team, so the reported stumbling block, if the most recent reports are to be believed, is a full no-trade clause over the first 2.5 years of the contract. How is that even a deal-breaker for the Sox?
Let's assume that Buehrle resigns without a no-trade clause. Next season, the first of Buehrle's new contract, will still be a "retooling" year. The second, assuming a positive retooling effort, would be the first where the Sox have a shot at a division crown, with the third and fourth years -- those in which Buehrle would gain 10/5 refusal rights -- being the years that the Sox should really be targeting as title contenders.
The only conclusion that I can make, is that the Sox would like to sign Buehrle to a below-market contract, which is what the 4/$56M will prove to be in just 5 months, with the option to trade that below-market contract after a couple of years in an effort to further the rebuilding process. If Buehrle is going to commit to a below-market contract, I can fully understand why he'd want no-trade protection. He wants to stay in Chicago, and is willing to take less money to do so. The Sox need to go the final step and make sure Buehrle is here for the next 4 years.
When the news first started to break surrounding the Buehrle extension, I said that I'd be interested to see how it all plays out in the media; to see who has the best sources, who is being used as a pawn by the White Sox. After a week full of rumors, Joe Cowley clearly has the best sources, but he also could just be a pawn in the Sox PR chess game.
Cowley has been the first to report virtually ever piece of new information in the Buehrle saga, which, since Buehrle did his best to keep everything out of the papers, I assume also means he's being used as the White Sox information minister. If the Sox fail to bridge the final gap, I can only conclude that they were never really serious about signing Buehrle, and were just using the past week to inflate trade value and appease the fans.