Extension for Ozzie or off to Marlins?

BY Ken Rosenthal • September 22, 2010

A week ago, I wrote about talk of Ozzie Guillen leaving the White Sox to manage the Marlins, citing buzz among scouts.

As it turns out, the talk is more than just idle speculation.

Guillen wants assurances that the White Sox would like him to remain manager long-term, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking.

The source even outlined a scenario that could lead to Guillen’s departure from the club:

• Guillen asks for a contract extension, one that goes beyond the team simply exercising his club option for 2012.

• The White Sox balk, and Guillen asks owner Jerry Reinsdorf to allow him to pursue the Marlins’ opening.

Guillen hinted at his desire for an extension in conversations with White Sox beat reporters in Oakland on Tuesday. His option for 2012 would become guaranteed if the White Sox won the AL title next season.

“I don’t want to put pressure on anyone,” Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t want to be here every day to win the division for my contract. I don’t want to do that.

“... I don’t know exactly what they want. I know exactly what I want. It’s up to them. I want to stay. (But) I want them to stay because they want me to stay, not because I’m Ozzie.”

Guillen is so mercurial, and his relationship with general manager Ken Williams so volatile, that anything is possible in the coming weeks.

Another source, in fact, says that Guillen is looking to buy a house in Chicago, indicating that he might be planning to live in the city long-term.

Still, there have been reports all season of friction between Guillen and Williams, talk that their relationship is beyond repair.

Guillen is loyal to Reinsdorf. But as recently as late August, the manager did not rule out the possibility that this season could be his last in Chicago, telling the Daily Herald, Chicago’s largest suburban newspaper, “Leaving the White Sox, it's something I’ve been thinking about.”

Guillen softened his comments to reporters the next day, but he does not want to go through another turbulent season with Williams, a source said.

Efforts to reach Guillen and Williams on Tuesday were unsuccessful. Reinsdorf, through a spokesman, declined comment.

While a contract extension might seem an odd solution, considering the tension between Guillen and Williams, it also would be one way of mollifying Guillen.

“The ultimate equalizer is money,” one rival executive says. “If Jerry pays them both enough, they’ll hold their noses.”

Reinsdorf, 74, has a long-standing affection for both men. He would rather maintain the status quo than search for a new manager or GM, sources say.

Then again, if Reinsdorf concedes that the relationship between Guillen and Williams is irreparable, perhaps he would allow Guillen to escape the final year of his contract.

Williams would appear to lack immediate alternatives, unless he wanted to enter the Mets’ GM derby.

Guillen, though, likely could jump to the Marlins, who would consider him a dream candidate as they prepare to move into a new ballpark in 2012.

The Marlins are seeking a manager with passion and fire, and owner Jeffrey Loria prefers big names. Former managers Bobby Valentine and Jim Fregosi are among the team’s candidates to replace interim manager Edwin Rodriguez, who replaced Fredi Gonzalez in late June.

The appeal of Guillen to the Marlins would be obvious: He lives in Miami, speaks English and Spanish and was the Marlins’ third-base coach when they won the World Series in 2003.

The team, however, could not pursue Guillen unless the White Sox released him from his contract.

The White Sox, if they took such a step, would not lack for potential replacements.

A dozen teams could change managers this off-season. A surprise opening with the White Sox actually could increase the volatility in the market, persuading some current managers to reconsider their options.

Foremost among that group would be Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who managed the White Sox from 1979 to ’86 and remains close with Reinsdorf.

Reinsdorf has said that allowing former GM Ken “Hawk” Harrelson to fire La Russa during the ’86 season was the biggest mistake he ever made.

La Russa, completing a disappointing season with the Cardinals, has not yet decided whether he wants to remain in St. Louis, and the team’s front office and ownership has not yet decided whether they want him back.

Reds manager Dusty Baker could be another candidate for the White Sox if Guillen departed. The Reds are expected to sign Baker to a multi-year extension, but the two sides have yet to reach agreement.

White Sox bench coach Joey Cora would be the leading internal possibility to replace Guillen. Cora, however, is also expected to draw strong consideration from the Mariners, who fired Don Wakamatsu in early August and replaced him with an interim manager, Daren Brown.

With so many jobs in flux, the possibilities seem almost endless. But the Guillen-Williams rift is a matter of public record, and their partnership is unlikely to continue without some change in the dynamic.

A contract extension for Guillen could be that change. So could a renewed effort by Guillen and Williams to bury their differences out of respect for Reinsdorf, their mutual benefactor.

If none of that is possible, the Marlins represent an out.

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