DALLAS--- If youre holding your breath for Mark Buehrle to return to the White Sox, you might need an oxygen mask.
And if youre Robin Ventura, who arrived at the winter meetings on Monday as the new manager of the White Sox, youre facing the realistic possibility that when the season begins, Buehrle will be wearing a different uniform.
Its easy if he stays, you just let him pitch. Obviously if he goes, its a tremendous loss, Ventura told reporters. You look at what hes meant to the organization as a teammate, and even being around as little as I was, it was obvious what hes meant. Id be disappointed.
The Marlins, Rangers and Nationals have been the most aggressive in their attempts to sign Buehrle. When the Nationals met with him at his home last month in Missouri, they expressed that signing him was their No. 1 priority, according to a source. Now the Nationals have entered the mix for fellow lefty free agent C.J. Wilson. Maybe theyve gotten the hint.
As Comcast SportsNet reported on Sunday, the Marlins' offer to Buehrle is considered very strong and Im told they remain the leading candidate to sign him.
Things could change here over the next few days. His agent, Jeff Berry, is a busy man. Many teams want to speak with him about his client, but the Marlins have been sitting on a pile of money for years and now theyre ready to spend it -- a lot of it. Just ask the Mets, who tried to resign shortstop Jose Reyes and got beaten out by Miami by over 30 million.
Leaving Chicago would be the most difficult decision of Buehrles career, but if the White Sox are unable to counter with a competitive offer to bring him back, theyll help make the decision for him.
Every White Sox fan hopes it doesnt come to this, but unless something changes, this appears to be the road where its all headed.
Its a scenario Ventura found himself in back in 1998 when, after nine seasons, he left the White Sox, the team that drafted him, and signed with the New York Mets as a free agent.
Ive been in his position and I know whats going through in his head, Ventura said of Buehrle. He likes Chicago, he likes the White Sox, but again, its where youre at in your career, and whats getting offered, and whats getting thrown at you. Sometimes you get a little confused. When you look at what you really want, if it could happen, he would probably want to stay, but theres a lot of people wanting him, and thats something he has to weigh and hes probably getting better offers.
Ventura actually ran into Buehrle a couple weeks ago in New York City where Mark received his Gold Glove Award.
I dont know if its bad, but I made my case in person to him, Ventura admitted. I just wanted him to know what I thought of him and what hes meant to the organization.
What was Buehrles reaction?
He just smiled and laughed.
Ventura knows its not his decision to make. He says that he will voice his opinions to Williams about players, whether its Buehrle or possible trade pieces like John Danks, Carlos Quentin and Gavin Floyd. But in the end, its not his call.
There was no I had to have this or 'I had to have that, Ventura explained about his dealings with Williams when he took the job. Im agreeing to manage the White Sox, not that I have to have a certain player. Would I like to have them? Oh yeah. I realize what John means, and Carlos and Mark. I get that and would love to have that, but in the situation were in and what happened last year, is it for sure? No, but I would like to have it.
Everyone wants to have Buehrle back.
But theres only so much money.