If the Florida Marlins are serious about pursuing Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to fill their just-vacated manager post, they’ll need to step it up at least twice as much as they did last season when they had a similar interest.
No sooner did Edwin Rodriguez step aside as the Marlins manager Sunday morning did the rumor mill spit out Guillen as a possible replacement next season.
The Marlins could operate with an interim manager for the rest of the season, then ask the White Sox permission this offseason to talk to Guillen about their opening.
The same scenario went down last winter when the Marlins had a manager opening and ultimately gave the job to Rodriguez.
White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf admitted this spring that he rebuffed the Marlins’ overtures toward Guillen this past winter when the teams couldn’t agree on compensation if Guillen actually left for South Beach. In what sounded like a trade of a manager for a prospect, Reinsdorf explained that wasn’t technically the case.
“There wasn't going to be a trade," said Reinsdorf, who ended up adding another year to Guillen’s current contract, taking him past the 2012 season. "The Marlins approached us about wanting to talk to Ozzie. We couldn't trade Ozzie. He has a contract to manage the White Sox. We could let him out of his contract. I love Ozzie, but if Ozzie didn't want to be here, I would consider letting him out of his contract, but not for nothing.”
Reinsdorf set the terms to the Marlins saying that before they could talk to Guillen the teams had to decide on what the White Sox would get if he did indeed leave. The White Sox weren’t happy with their offer, which Reinsdorf kept private, and the talks stopped there.
“Ozzie probably still wouldn't have left [if compensation was agreed upon],” Reinsdorf said. “We couldn't have traded him and we would have tried to keep him. I would have gone to Ozzie and said, 'OK the Marlins want to talk to you and we've given them permission to talk to you, but I hope to God you don't leave.' It would have been his decision, not our decision.”
So if Reinsdorf wasn’t willing to part with his manager coming off a disappointing season in 2010 and with Guillen in the midst of a bitter feud with general manager Kenny Willliams, why would things be different this time around?
Guillen does own a home in the Miami area and was the Marlins third-base coach for two seasons before taking the White Sox’s managerial job, but he still doesn’t seem to be itching to go to Florida to work full time.
Guillen and his family were genuinely ecstatic on the first night of SoxFest this winter when the White Sox picked up the option year on his contract. And this spring, Guillen became a full-time resident of Chicago, keeping his Florida residence but committing to the cold and snowy winters of the Midwest.
It certainly doesn’t sound like a guy with one foot out of the door.
Then there is the matter of winning. Guillen regularly compliments Reinsdorf, Williams and assistant GM Rick Hahn for giving him competitive teams. The Marlins can’t boast the same overall talent level, although they will be moving into a new stadium next season so an upgrade in talent might coincide with that.
Could the Marlins step up and make their offer more attractive to the White Sox in order to pry Guillen away? It’s possible. Would Guillen then leave the organization he says he loves beyond all others? Sure, it could happen. Guillen is only assured of one more season on the South Side, so job stability could be an issue.
But the Marlins would have to wow him with a contract in both money and years. And that offer would be from an organization that only gave Rodriguez a one-year deal and then apparently didn’t support him enough for the manager to see it through.
So will Guillen be in Florida next season? At first glance it seems very unlikely.
Right now, Guillen has his hands full worrying about his underachieving White Sox club that is slowly trying to work its way back into contention.
But one thing seems certain: Guillen is going to feel very loved for the next six months, especially if talks between the Marlins and White Sox are rekindled this winter. The White Sox won't let him go easily and the Marlins will be forced to step up big time and show what they really think of him.