Ventura understands Buehrle's situation
Southpaw's decision will impact direction of White Sox in 2012
DALLAS -- When Robin Ventura ran into Mark Buehrle a few weeks ago in New York, the rookie White Sox manager went into full sales mode with the free-agent hurler.
"I made my case in person to him," said Ventura, during his conversation with the media Monday night at baseball's annual Winter Meetings in the Hilton Anatole. "Obviously, I just wanted him to know what I thought of him and what he has meant to the organization."
Buehrle's response was a smile and then he kind of laughed, according to Ventura.
"He gets it. I get it, too," Ventura said. "I didn't expect him to do anything different."
What Buehrle gets, or at least has grown to understand during this current offseason, is the entire free-agent process. No fewer than 14 teams have been reported to have interest in the durable and talented southpaw, who has pitched at least 200 innings, made at least 30 starts and won in double-digits over each of his 11 seasons as a starter.
And to think Buehrle wasn't sure when discussing the situation at season's end if there would be any interest at all upon making a first foray into the free-agent process. At 32 and with an expressed desire to spend more time with his family as his young children are growing up, this contract could be the last major one for the starter with a career 161-119 record and 3.83 ERA.
The length of the deal ultimately could be more important to Buehrle than the money. Teams such as Washington and Miami, where Ozzie Guillen now manages, have been seriously linked to Buehrle. Teams as remote as the Tigers and Twins have been included on that list.
As for the White Sox, they might not come fully back into the picture until the final offers are made and they can judge if a fit is still possible. Ventura has a feeling Buehrle wants to return to Chicago, all things being equal.
"I've been in his situation and I know what's going through his head," said Ventura, who left the White Sox for the Mets via free agency after the 1998 season. "Obviously, I think he likes Chicago. He likes the White Sox. But again, it's where you are at in your career and what's getting offered and what's getting thrown at you.
"Sometimes you get a little confused and when you look at what you really want, if it could happen, he would probably want to stay. But there's a lot of people who really want him and that's just something that he has to weigh and he probably is getting better offers.
"Well, it's easy if he stays. You just let him pitch," Ventura said. "Obviously if he goes, it's a tremendous loss. You look at what he's meant to the organization as a teammate. I would be disappointed."
Ventura's scheduled Winter Meetings chat with the media doesn't come until 2:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday, opposite new St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. But with general manager Ken Williams not yet in the building, Ventura also handled the team update on Monday.
Players such as John Danks, Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton have been mentioned in various trade rumors. In a tweet from Jon Heyman of SI.com and MLB Network, the White Sox asking price from the Yankees for Danks was reported as left-hander Manny Banuelos and designated hitter/catcher Jesus Montero. The Yankees weren't inclined to give up one of their top prospects, let alone both.
Williams doesn't necessarily have to trade away Danks, who is entering his last year of arbitration. He can approach the 2012 campaign with this gritty 26-year-old at the top of the White Sox rotation, assuming Buehrle signs elsewhere, and then entertain trade offers in July if the White Sox are not in contention or try to work out a multiyear extension with Danks.
Jeff Berry, who has been Buehrle's longtime representative, also represents Danks. Williams ultimately could slightly lower the present asking price, and instead target one of the Yankees' top prospects in an organization where he has great familiarity. Even if Danks, Buehrle and/or Quentin depart in some manner, Ventura didn't sound like someone looking for built-in excuses where possible struggles were concerned in his first year.
"There was no 'I had to have this' or had to have that," Ventura said. "In agreeing to do this, I'm agreeing to manage the White Sox, not 'I have to have a certain player.' I realize what John means and Carlos and Mark. I get that. I would love to have that, but in the situation that we are in and what has happened last year, is it for sure? No.
"We've all kind of heard it and talked about it. I don't have any more of a sense than anybody else really."
Cutting payroll stands at the forefront for the White Sox, who had a franchise-record $127 million in 2011 and barely topped the 2 million mark in attendance. Whether that payroll cut means Buehrle won't return remains to be seen.
Whether Buehrle wants to return, despite Ventura's personal pleas and if the White Sox meet the market offer, also will play out soon.
"Eventually everyone leaves," Ventura said. "If it's not leaving for free agency, you are retiring, so guys have to fill in at some point. It gives new opportunities to guys that might not get a shot.
"Baseball just keeps moving. So, once that decision is made, I would love to have him again, but in baseball, you can't worry about what you don't have."