Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 11/16/11
It's no joke, folks. "We're dead serious," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. The Marlins have made a nine-year offer to free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols at a "substantial" dollar amount, according to major-league sources. They also have made a six-year, $90 million offer to free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes and offers to free-agent left-hander Mark Buehrle and closer Ryan Madson, sources say. "This is for real," Guillen said. "I don't think this is a marketing thing. This is what (the Marlins) want. They're trying to improve as quickly as they can. "This is not to show Marlins fans, 'Look at how we're trying.' In the past, they've traded players . . . It's not to show, 'We're trying, but we're not going to do anything.'" No, they're going to do something. These are not the same old Marlins, playing in an empty ballpark and antagonizing the players' union by failing to use enough of their revenue-sharing money on major-league payroll. This is a franchise that is finally is prepared to take advantage of the vast resources that Miami offers as it moves into a new, downtown retractable-roof ballpark. Pujols and Reyes both are from the Dominican Republic. For a player from Latin America, Miami is the closest thing to home. But for a free agent, the money still needs to be compelling. "When you get paid, it doesn't matter where you play," said Guillen, a native Venezuelan who played shortstop for 16 seasons in the majors. "You're also wanting to win; not every free agent is looking for money first. Put those things together, and that's a plus. "For a (Latin) free agent in Miami, the only thing I can say is that you're close to your family. And language is not as much of a barrier as it is in other places." The climate doesn't hurt, either. Reyes, who has spent his entire career with the Mets, no longer would play his home games in cold or inclement weather. The warm temperatures in Miami might help him avoid leg injuries, and the retractable roof in the new ballpark will help keep the field dry. Pujols has spent his entire career with the Cardinals, winning two World Series. The Marlins haven't reached the postseason since winning the 2003 Series, but they averaged 84 wins from '08 to '10 before falling to 72 last season. Put Pujols, Reyes and Buehrle on the team along with a healthy Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez, and who's to say that the Marlins wouldn't be a serious threat to win the NL East? Of course, Pujols, Reyes and Buerhle might command a combined $50 million per season, and many in baseball remain skeptical that the Marlins will sign one of them, much less all three. Many in baseball also are skeptical that the Marlins can sustain success in their new park, but this is their one chance to build momentum, to get it right. Guillen said the willingness of all three players to visit Miami speaks to their level of interest. The team's presentations, by all accounts, were first-class, impressive, intriguing. Of course, the signing of even Reyes would not be accomplished without creating a certain amount of tension. The Marlins, if they sign Reyes, plan to move shortstop Hanley Ramirez to third base. But Guillen did not deny that Ramirez was opposed to such a move. "Listen, I don't blame Hanley," Guillen said. "I think Hanley, the last 10 conversations we've had, he's been great, very good. "Hanley is going to show baseball fans who he can be. He is 'The Man' with the Marlins. He's not a secondary guy. I don't care if you sign a guy for a hundred years. Hanley is still the main core of the ballclub, the bigger piece of the puzzle." Moving him to third base? "We let him know about it," Guillen said. "So far, he sounds good. You're not going to move your biggest piece to show how tough you are. We've got to talk to him, make him understand why the team will be better. "If Reyes is on our ballclub, I don't think it will be a problem. I've talked to him a lot. This kid is going to be pretty special, you watch. You've got to show him some love. You've got to be straight-up with him, honest with him, let him know he's a Marlin." Being a Marlin hasn't meant much in recent seasons. But if club officials accomplish even some of their goals, being a Marlin will be something special again. "They're trying very hard," Gullen said of his new bosses. And if they strike out? "I think everyone would be very disappointed."
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