Making room for a new Konerko contract

Paulie will be getting paid, and Kenny Williams isn't promising that he'll be signing the checks. You might be able to guess what that is contingent on.

In an interview with Scott Merkin, Kenny Williams gave some blanket statements regarding Paul Konerko’s future with a familiar caveat:

“That’s pretty much all I’m going to say on it, because I don’t know what the future holds,” added Williams. “I don’t know how we are going to finish.
“We are driven by the revenue stream that comes in. People might not like it but it is what it is. We have to at least be able to be a break-even operation, and try to win at the same time.”

When Williams drops these lines, it’s code for one of two things:

  1. Fans only have themselves to blame.
  2. There’s cash available, but nobody has to know that except for me and Jerry.

It’s an old saw that’s hard to take too seriously, since he blamed fans for not showing up for a midweek series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009 (the Sox marketing department owned up to jacking up the prices), only to trade for Jake Peavy and buy Alex Rios.
Konerko, though, is doing his part to make himself hard to fit in a budget. He’s never had a season like the one he’s putting together this year, and his two-homer, five-RBI day against the Royals on Sunday puts him in breathing distance of a 1.000 OPS. He’s never come close to crossing that magic number, and he’d already be there if hitting a ball to the wall was an automatic double.
He’s got a career high going in all the triple slash categories (.322/.399/.598), and even that feels like it’s underselling him considering it’s saddled by a subpar May. Take that month out of the numbers, and he’s hitting .342/.416/.644. Obviously, you can’t just remove May to evaluate an entire season, but that second line represents the kind of hitter he has been for the last three-plus months.
It’s safe to say nobody saw that coming. Before the season, the projection system ZIPS said Konerko had an 11 percent chance of hitting .300. It was similarly skeptical of him hitting other benchmarks, like a .375 OBP (15 percent), 140 OPS+ (6 percent) and 30 homers (14 percent).
You can’t blame the system for those assessments. Konerko had hit .260/.350/.475 over the last three seasons combined, and looked to be in the midst of your standard decline. His 2008 season season doesn’t quite fit in, but he had a thumb injury for a couple of months that really sunk his game.
The thumb flared up on him a little last year, but he hasn’t had the issue this season. That’s one big reason why he’s reaching unprecedented heights, but  the others are tougher to figure out. Visually, he looks fantastic and balanced, using all fields and shortening his swing when a single will do. He’s always been a good fastball hitter, and this year he’s murdering them. So maybe he’s finding different ways to expect a heater.
My guess is that he’s the same hitter he always was, just a healthier one and a hotter one. Occam’s Razor and all that.
The good news is that Konerko is 34. Considering Konerko’s prime never approached the season he’s enjoying now, I don’t think his representation can successfully argue that he’s established a new baseline for talent. This season might inflate his value, but it shouldn’t put him out of the Sox’ range.
The only problem is that Konerko isn’t alone. Entering the season, it looked like the Sox would get some upcoming salary relief in the form of a new catcher for A.J. Pierzynski, a new fifth (or fourth) starter, and maybe a new first baseman. But Pierzysnki’s resurgence also makes him a tough case, the Sox have no major-league ready starters, and Carlos Quentin is no longer a good value.
It’s times like these we start to see the importance of investing in the draft, and the Sox are always at the bottom of that list. Splurging on an inflated Konerko would be easier to handle of the Sox had other good values to even it out. Instead, Alexei Ramirez is the only one who truly fits the description looking around the diamond, and he’s positioned next to a fiscal drain in Mark Teahen. Likewise, Sergio Santos’ contributions in the bullpen don’t cancel out the money going to costly underachievers Bobby Jenks, Scott Linebrink and Tony Pena.
That’s why I have a hard time feeling sympathy for Williams. Re-signing Konerko — which seems to be the smartest move in this case — is going to cost him money and make him uncomfortable. That’s part of the job; in fact, he’s already gone through it with Konerko after the 2005 season.
But it would be a lot easier if the White Sox farm system were conducive to developing merely average, adequate, serviceable players once in a while. Their stinginess toward amateur players makes it harder to find eventual big-league contributors on the second day of the draft, or in Latin America.
That forces them to overpay for other teams’ mediocrity, and that sometimes leads to overpaying more unremarkable players when those guys can’t cut it. Those contracts add up, and make it complicated when figuring out whether they can keep their own star talent. That’s a backwards system, and it’s hard to see when the Sox will address that. It won’t be before a decision needs to be made on Konerko, that much is certain.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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ricksch

You left out the Daniel Hudson deal — had we not traded him we’d have $7.5 mil less committed next year. I didn’t know Hudson was going to pitch lights-out for the D-Backs but felt strongly that we couldn’t afford to deal such a potentially valuable piece — especially with little chance to really do much this year.
Kenny’s abject failure to get Thome relates directly to the desperate splurge on a steroid cheat/quitter. Though I was willing to take the risk on Manny, this ends up being an even worse travesty than it already was. Not to mention a substantial money drain.
The AJ issue has to be weighed against the fact that Kenny basically got crap in return for Javy Vazquez. When will Flowers every be ML ready? I think that’s a big “if” right about now.
They have to let Jenks and Pena go. That should be a no-brainer.
All good reasons, including the cherry-on-the-sundae stupidity of Mark Teahen, to fire Kenny.
Sox have Yankee prices on their tickets for a respectable, but by no means elite team. Fans are getting screwed left and right. Why the hell should they come to the park and pay for Kenny’s failures?
I see the Sox live on the west coast cause I live here, but if I was back in Chi-town, you wouldn’t catch me paying up for Cell seats. No way in hell. Just as there’s no way in hell I would pay the insane prices of Spring Training. F–k them all and the Maybach they rode in on.

bigfun

When will Flowers every be ML ready? I think that’s a big “if” right about now.”
We won’t really know how good or bad that trade was until Flowers has had a couple years to succeed or fail in the majors. But a guy with a .391 minor league on base percentage from a key position on the field is extremely valuable until he proves that he can’t do it at the ML level (and many catchers need two or three years to establish themselves there).
That’s aside from the fact that in your ongoing beef against Tyler Flowers you always seem to leave out the fact that the trade also got the Sox a utility guy, a third baseman still young enough to develop into a useful player, and a reliever who struck out 59 batters in 40.1 innings this year.
Sure, none of those guys are superstars, but they are the sort of cheap useful depth that is exactly what Jim was talking about. But maybe all that is just basically crap in your opinion.

bigfun

“They have to let Jenks and Pena go. That should be a no-brainer.”
I can see the argument for non-tendering Jenks, but please explain how Pena is a “no-brainer.” He’s probably going to make a pretty modest $2-3 million. There’s still enough reason to think 2010 is the exception for him and to give him at least one more year.

ricksch

I don’t understand the love affair with Pena. He had one decent year in AZ, in the league everyone seems to consider garbage. His numbers this year are among his worst. He has stuff — but at age 28 still hasn’t a clue how to pitch. Cut bait on this guy. You can get much better relievers for $1.2.
I’m not sure but did the Sox get Lillibridge in the Vazquez deal? I thought Vazquez was a choker and a headcase and was glad to see him go. But he’s a guy who’s been highly prized and was picked up by the Yankees TWICE. If it is Lillibridge, he’s VERY easily replaced. Was Morel in that deal? Maybe THEN it has some potential value. But still, nothing of actual substance so far for a number 2-3 starter with stuff that teams like the Yankees keep buying. That’s a GOOD trade?
You pull up Flowers’ one good number and ignore all the bad ones. How does that argument hold up? The freakin’ team (not me) wanted Flowers ready next year so they could save the money on the AJ contract. With no evidence of that, now they’ll have to pay him since there’s not much else available. But if AJ holds out for more than a 1+1, screw him.

bigfun

Not sure what’s stopping you from taking 30 seconds to Google the trade. It’s kinda weird that you hate this trade so much when you don’t even know which players were involved.
“nothing of actual substance”
You want Kenny Williams fired, but you’re as shortsighted as he is about the system. Flowers is 24. It’s not like he’s some washed-up ex-prospect. He’s proceeded through the minors at a normal pace. You’re the only one who seems to think he should be on some kind of fast track.
Rodriguez is 22, Gilmore is 21. Of course these guys haven’t generated anything of substance yet. If you expect every trade to pay off within a year or two of making it, you’re going to be disappointed by a lot of really good trades.
No one loves Pena but he’s cheap and had pretty good numbers in both 2008 and 2009. Cutting bait on him after just one bad year is acting rashly.
I didn’t ignore all of Flowers’ bad numbers. He has way more good ones than bad. He’s put up great numbers every year [i]except[/i] 2010, and even 2010 was OK, not terrible.

bigfun

Re: Flowers and strikeouts, yeah, that will be a problem. And it’s frustrating because if you rank the White Sox hitters by strikeouts, the top five includes the team’s best hitters.
Guillen just doesn’t get it.

ricksch

I don’t have 30 seconds to google the trade because I have to defend myself from the insulting rhetoric from somee Saber-hole who hates hyperbole but seems to have mastered it.
By what measure was Pena’s ’09 “pretty good”? His numbers were less than league average and, much worse, he coughed up nearly every high leverage situation the Sox put him in for. By no measure was he even close to being as good as the guy he replaced, Carassco, who wanted $800K but was told to take a hike. We already have a useless back of the bullpen guy in Linestink for $5.5 mil. We need quality people at the other spots, to be ready when your top guys go through dead arm periods or land on the DL.
It’s pretty well accepted that the Sox bullpen is what killed them this year, yet you’re happy to keep a guy who is posting a 5.5 ERA and has a career high in walks in far less innings pitched than his “career year” back in ’07 or ’06. Pena’s not part of the solution, he’s part of the problem.
Flowers was the supposed to be the centerpiece in the trade for Vazquez. Sorry that’s all I could recall. I do also remember he was supposed to be a killer bat who needed work with catching defense and calling games. He’s hitting .225 in Triple AAA in his third year of Minor League ball. That’s not all that encouraging in my book. Talk about guys like Rodrigues and Gillmore when they have shown a glimmer of having a career — which makes that part of the trade a little more consequence than a fart in a windstorm at this point — though thanks for passing that along to me, along with your usual personally insulting remark.

bigfun

I’m sorry to hear that you’re upset, Ricksch. Not sure which part of what I said you found personally insulting, but it was not intended to be.
In 2009 Tony Pena induced lots of swinging strikes, had a good K/BB ratio, pretty decent ground ball rate. I do agree that he was not a great high-leverage guy but I’m not convinced that he’s a bust like Linebrink (who has been worse for longer and is older). At the price Pena will get in arbitration he’s worth giving one more chance to IMO.
I think the Sox offense killed them a lot more than their bullpen this year.
Batting average is not a very good stat. Flowers OPS or wOBA is more reflective of the year he had – bad strikeout problem, but partially offset by a good walk rate and good power.
There’s no guarantee that Flowers or any of those other guys will be big parts of this team in the future. Maybe none of them will. I just don’t understand the desire to peg a 24-year-old with 18 major league at-bats to his name as some kind of disappointment.

bigfun

If they were using that $2 million really wisely, I would be OK with it. I’m not a Pena fan by any means. But I’m pessimistic and feel like its going to be like last offseason where they’re supposedly thrifty but then stumble over themselves to throw millions of dollars at the Kotsays and Teahens of the world.
Has anyone looked at what Pena’s problem is this year? Strikeouts way down, walks way up… slider not breaking right or something?

ricksch

I hear ya Jim. And several of us have all weighed in on Konerko.
I would love if it during this Twins’ series fans gave Thome a standing ovah every time he comes to the plate.

dalton

That would be terrific. Thome (followed closely by Konerko and Buerhle) was my favorite Sox player since Fisk.

ricksch

The shortsighted comment I believe is an attempt to characterize the person who made the comment. I consider the source Jim and when I deal with a pedantic irritant who lords his esteemed Saber-knowledge over Sox Nation like the Good Lord himself, it’s hard not to get defensive.
Check out the ready example of thi lower on this very same thread — BigF needles SoxFan1 for using the word “release”. Clearly this is nitpicking and has NOTHING to do with the crux of SF’s argument. Maybe SoxFan1 has a life and just wanted to get his point across and sign off? I guess he should be careful of the words he uses or Sister BigFun will strike him across the hands with her ruler.
Further to my constant irritation with him, BigF constantly jabs at and not-so-subtly insults people, but he fails miserably in responding to the crux of their arguments.
Example — Flowers was supposed to be a good bat who needed work on defense and game-calling. I metioned that, in the context of his good bat being not so great. BigF parses out my argument, poo-poohing Flowers’ low batting average — but doesn’t talk about the fact that Flowers is not expected to be much of a defensive catcher. So how long do we wait around for a one-dimenstional player who has yet to show he can hit AAA pitching? That when hitting is supposed to be the guy’s metier!! God save me but I do not suffer fools well.
I’ll offer this up in the interest of not wasting any more of our time — if BigFun doesn’t address my comments, I won’t address his. Probably most other people on this board are tired of his crap too, but they’re either too nice or too busy to deal with it.

bigfun

There’s a lot I could say in response, but I’m inclined to agree with you that there wouldn’t be much point.
If either Jim or the silent majority to which Rick alludes feel that my comments have been insulting or irritating, I will voluntarily stop posting here.

ricksch

Look man, you know your stats and you’re a loyal Sox fan. You make good points, several of which I agree with. Just take out the g-d damn pedantry and I’ll respect you.

soxfan1

Re-sign Konerko for 2 years with a 3rd year option! & AJ for 1+1.
Release: Jenks, Pena, & Jones, Quentin, Manny & Vizquel. Release them the day after the season ends and that will save ~ $10 mil. Omar played well but he too old to rely on for 2011.

bigfun

Well you can’t “release” guys you don’t have signed for next year… Pena should stay because he’s so cheap, I don’t think they will non-tender Jenks but it would probably be for the best.
Quentin is borderline but I would rather see them resign him. $4-5 million is not bad for an above average hitter if they’re willing to DH him more.
AJ is having the worst season of his career and is going to be 34 this winter. I see very little reason to resign him.

dalton

I see Quentin hitting 30 HR with 90 – 100 RBI if he can stay healthy. DH him at 4 -5 mil makes a lot of sense. Beats a Teahan/Kotsay/Jones DH platoon any day.
I take it no one here is up for resigning Ramirez? He’s hit nothing but singles thus far, although I give him credit for being in the on-deck circle for quite a few home runs by the guy in front of him in the order…

dalton

If you were Kenny Williams, would you sign Manny to a one-year deal for, say, $7 mil plus incentives (or something like that)? Is he worth the trouble? Is he going to be a slugger again or hit .300 with 162 singles?

bigfun

Manny would retire before he would take a one-year $7 million deal, and rightly so. He’s hit .309/.407/.478 this year. He’s not going to get that crazy Dodgers deal again but he will get paid.

dalton

Since Manny has joined Chicago, he’s hit nothing but singles. Ten of them, in eleven games. I would be interested in having him back next year. If he can still hit – which I think he can – he’ll improve the pitches anyone sees in front (Konerko) or behind him (Quentin).

bigfun

I wouldn’t mind him at the right price, but I think he will go somewhere else with a stronger shot at the postseason and a GM that sees eye to eye with Boras.

dalton

You don’t think the 2011 Sox will have a strong shot at the post-season? Man, I’ve been a Chicago White Sox fan (one that doesn’t live in IL, either) for 30 years and I’ve never seen such pessimism. Especially over a team that won a World Series not that terribly long ago.

bigfun

They definitely have a shot, but there are a few other teams with stronger positions and more Boras-friendly GMs.
It’s hard to talk about 2011 postseason odds this early, though.

dalton

Maybe too early for 2011 post-season odds, but never too soon for Sox fans to rule them out.

fustercluck

Offer Manny a series of 1-month, incentive-laden contracts. He loves carrots.

soxfan1

Release=Cut=Non-tender. Call it what you want.
So you’d re-sign Pena & Quentin for ~ $8mil. Good luck finding a catcher better than AJ who you can afford!!

dalton

If AJ declines – and his second-half resurgence doesn’t portend well for those who think he will – how much worse would it be to stick Flowers back there everyday if they’re both going to hit .220?
How is Flowers at throwing out runners?

ricksch

I agree with everything but Vizquel, who for $1.3 is going to earn his salary, almost in intangibles alone.
I agree with Quentin UNLESS they make him the DH and the 4th or 5th outfielder. I really despise the argument that Quentin’s temperment precludes him being a full time DH. If he wasn’t so brittle and could run, catch and throw, THEN he plays the OF. Otherwise, wise-up, take anger management classes or get out of town.

bigfun

For Vizquel, either a one-year deal at third or a two-year deal as third base coach. You get the intangibles either way!

striker

I bet Konerko won’t sign for anything less than 3 years. I bet that’s what he has left in him. I’m hesitant to sign him for that long and anything more than $7mil/year.
I think we keep Quentin and keep him lower in the order. Had he been down there the whole time he wouldn’t have put so much pressure on himself to succeed. I think that’s why he excelled in 2008.

Buehrlesque

I’d be shocked if Konerko ends up with only $7 mil/year, though I’m also very leery about going three years with him.
Would the Sox actually non-tender Jenks? I think they should, but I don’t see it happening.

striker

I think thats too long and too much for him too. But someone will give it to him.

ricksch

Sox should offer Paulie 2yrs. for $18m. That’s some nice money that rewards near MVP year. Three years for $20 might be an option, but I think they’d have a better chance at enticing him with the former.

dalton

On what are you basing 7 mil/year? He’s coming off a deal that has paid him 12 mil/year, and as you know, 2010 has been a monster year for him (top 5 in, what, six major power categories + average?).
Are you basing it on his age, or on what Kenny may be willing to pay. If he is going to sign for 7 mil/year, seems like he’d only do that for a 5 or 6 year deal. Otherwise, someone else (Angels, maybe) will pay handsomely for his services. And it would be sad to see him go.

bigfun

I think he’ll get a two-year $15-20 million deal. Something similar to what Abreu, Damon, Matsui, etc. signed for.

dalton

From the White Sox? He’s deserving of it, but we’ll see how that plays out in Chicago. If not him at first base, who?

bigfun

I think it’s pretty likely. If not him… (gulp) Teahen/Viciedo platoon. Or someone off the scrap heap, there’s plenty of 1Bs available every offseason. Take the money you save and spend it elsewhere.

striker

White Sox are going to probably make a couple small moves this winter and wait for the spring, when they know more about Peavy’s health, before they can make any major moves.
With Peavy healthy pitching is expendable. Without him it’s not.
I’d be curious to see what happened if Kenny kept the team as is. He always make alot of moves, which is fun for the fans but I’m wondering if it affects the team somehow. The Twins rarely make moves and look at how well they do year in and year out.

bigfun

I think the Twins changed it up this past offseason, making more aggressive moves. And by going out and getting both Capps and Fuentes they are definitely going for it this year, for better or for worse. They know that they will most likely be looking at an ALDS rematch with the Yankees this year and they can’t afford to be swept again.

ricksch

I agree with you again here. The Twins MO is changing. They have a new ballpark that’s being packed every night.
That’s why I feel we are in a heap ‘o trouble going forward and can’t withstand the litany of lame, screw-ups that is Kenny Williams.

Buehrlesque

Great series of comments here. I share striker’s curiosity in the Super-Active KW Question. I suspect the Sox would be stronger as a unit overall if KW built a strong, complete team and just kept it together, without the constant and overshadowing trade talks every July. But that is a lot easier said than done.
I also agree with Jim’s point that the Twins are a great regular season team because of their approach, but aren’t built for playoff success. KW’s teams are built for the playoffs, but have trouble getting there because they always stumble in Aug/Sept.
But, like bigfun says, this Twins team is different than the past. They were more aggressive, and it shows. Will it pay off in Oct.?

fustercluck

Kappy Ko’ko having a career walk year. Kenny has to make a serious offer, none of this “Let me count my change” bullshit. If he can afford to flush real money down the drain on Linebrinks & Teahens, then he has to take it on the chin and pay up for the team’s elder statesman who’s still getting it done.
Fully expect him to regress next year. (I also expected Thome’s spine to collapse like that Mississippi River bridge, and Gentleman Jim’s health is still openly mocking us.) It’d be nice if Kenny could sign Konerko to a contract that factors in the risk. Both parties seem reasonable, at least; we’ll see.
I’d gladly take a risky Konerko over his available replacements. Like Jim said, a lot of Sox fans don’t tolerate growing pains well. Especially the episodes following Chrissy’s growth spurt.

ricksch

I agree that Williams shouldn’t dick Konerko around, as it appears he’s preparing to do. How can you talk about dollars when you just wasted $4,3 mil on Manny — all because of your potentially season-killing mistake of starting the year with the absurd DH hybrid and then being double-dealt by Rizzo while pursing Dunn BECAUSE you were short a lefty bat?
Never once does Williams admit that maybe signing Jimbo would have been prudent, even as his desperate final act of signing the steroid cheat belies the fact.
Williams acts authoritative and looks sharp in a suit, but he’s a major hypocrite and all of his mistakes end up being paid by those who can still afford tickets to the Cell.
This team had a real chance to at least win the division this year, but lost out because of the opening day roster which was dog-cheap on the fringes (Randy, Nix), and filled with all sorts of unfounded wishcasting (Teahen, Kotsay).

cushinglee

I got home from work, went to Sox Machine, and…49 comments!!?? Well, now you’ve got 50. Seriously, Jim, what you said today is on the mark. I’ll be at Wednesday’s game…nothing like attending a good wake.

marshlands

But I already paid full price on those tickets for 9/16!
Fuck this. I’m going to start working on my White Sox off-season plan already…

ricksch

A friend gifted me a ticket for a Sox-Angels game at the end of the month. It was a wonderful gift indeed. I’ll always appreciate it but now I have to wonder if it’s worth the hellish haul from L.A. to Anaheim.
Will someone give him a “that’s baseball!”?

ricksch

crap, blew the punchline!

chisoxt

Willimas is such an ass. I can’t wait until the day that he is gone. How can you say something like that after wasting so much money on guys like Peavy, Llinebrink, Teahen, and Manny.