Paul Konerko will be returning for his 16th season in a White Sox uniform in 2014, much to the pleasure of old time White Sox fans and ownership alike.
Konerko signed a one year deal earlier this week, worth around $2.5 million. With Adam Dunn still on board and recent free agent acquisition Jose Abreu expected to occupy the designated hitter and first baseman spots, respectively, Konerko is expected to have a very reduced role in 2014.
Makes sense when you’re making about a fifth your 2013 salary.
Konerko is the ultimate professional, a cerebral assassin of sorts. Almost to the point where it’s a detriment. While some players in his position simply would have attributed a down year to a struggling franchise or a series of physical ailments, Konerko was brutally honest with himself. He realizes he’s not the player he once was, but can still be of value to an organization.
“I looked at what I did against lefthanders last year, it’s not bad,” said Konerko in an ESPN Chicago story, who batted .313 in nine at-bats against lefties, with a .923 OPS. “As bad as I felt mechanically as a hitter, and physically I didn’t feel that great, I still held my own against them and there was a (revelation): ‘I can still do that.”
The White Sox have had notorious struggles against left handed pitching in the past, and hopefully Konerko’s return means we’ll be seeing far less of Adam Dunn against left handers in general. And while the White Sox love to talk about how great of a mentor Konerko will serve as to the club’s younger players, that sort of value is really impossible to measure.
It does, however, help save the White Sox front office from its biggest fear.
No, Brian Anderson isn’t coming back to play center field any time soon. I’m talking about revenue and ticket sales.
This offseason is far from over. But with Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury signing lucrative (and frankly ridiculous) deals with the New York Yankees, the White Sox were hamstrung in the free agent market before they even knew what hit them. The Abreu signing seems great from a market value standpoint, seeing as how Ellsbury got upwards of $170 million and Robinson Cano looks to be in the $225 million range.
In short, there is no way the White Sox can compete with that. Nor should they.
But the spectacle with the unknown that is Abreu along with the longtime fan favorite in Konerko should at least save the White Sox from being an embarrassment in the turnstiles in 2014. This obviously has a lot to do with winning, and we have no idea how the rest of the offseason or winter meetings are going to play out.
Still, the White Sox have made moves to raise interest in their brand while not sacrificing the long term financial well-being of the organization.
For a squad that won just 63 games last season, it may just be the best thing they have done in over a year.