Buying futures: John Danks and Paul Konerko

Before Thursday's game, Paul Konerko discussed his future; during Thursday's game, John Danks made a money statement, too.

John Danks picked up an important victory in his final start of the 2010 season, not only because he built on his career-high total, but also because of who it came against.

May as well start feeding it money.
Danks finished the year with a 15-11 record and a 3.72 ERA over 213 innings, all of which are improvements upon last season. He also set a career high in strikeouts with 162 while lowering his walk rate and his home run rate.
In the process, he also knocked Jon Lester down a peg, with some big help from Paul Konerko’s grand slam. The White Sox spoiled Lester’s bid for a 20th win, and also sank any hopes he had of a sub-3.00 ERA. He entered the game at 2.96, and left at 3.25.
It might help Danks that he got in Lester’s way, because while Lester’s a better pitcher than Danks in just about every way, he still might be the most comparable pitcher for Danks as he goes through his arbitration years. They’re both young, talented, left-handed, and have similar workloads through their first full four seasons. The only difference is how their careers started — Lester’s first two seasons were half-years due to his battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, whereas Danks started 2007 in the rotation and stuck it out into September despite second-half struggles.
Since 2008, Lester’s been one of the best pitchers in the entire American League, and Danks is about one step behind:


W-L ERA IP H HR BB K
Lester 50-23 3.29 621.2 555 48 213 602
Danks 40-31 3.62 608.1 555 61 200 470

He’s also one step behind in the salary department, though that may change.
In spring training of 2009, Lester signed a five-year, $30 million contract that bought out his first year of free agency with a club option for his second. He would have been in his first year of arbitration this season, and is getting paid $3.75 million for his services.
Danks chose by bypass the guaranteed payday last offseason, signing only a one-year deal for $3.45 million — again, one step behind Lester. But this might be the year he catches up in the money. It’s been a successful gamble for Danks, because it should put him on a higher salary trajectory than Lester despite being slightly inferior across the board. Danks helped his case on Thursday, because thanks to his effort, he can say that neither of them have ever won 20 games in a season.
Here’s what Lester’s making from here on out:

  • 2011: $5.75M
  • 2012: $7.62M
  • 2013: $11.625M
  • 2014: $13M club option ($250,000 buyout)

Based on these numbers, I’d guess that you can pencil in Lester’s 2011 salary for Danks’ when figuring out the 2011 payroll. If you’re thinking about a contract involving a free agency year, it would probably be in the three-year, $25 million Lester zone.
That’s also in line with Gavin Floyd’s deal. Floyd is set to make $21.5 million from 2011 to 2013, if the Sox pick up his club option. Keep these numbers in mind going forward, because this is probably the range the Sox will deal with.
**************************************
True to his word, Paul Konerko answered questions about his impending free agency before hitting his 39th homer of the year on Thursday. And in true Konerko fashion, he was very measured with his words.
The key segment:

”I’m a White Sox, regardless if I go play somewhere else, that’s what I’ll be thought of, that’s what I’ll think of my career,” Konerko said. ”I feel like that mission has been accomplished. If I go on, I’ll sleep fine at night knowing I was loyal when the time came [after the 2005 season].
”There’s emotions, there will always be. If I come back and I finish my career here, guess what? There’s going to be emotions the last year. You’re never going to get away from it. It’s about doing what’s right in that moment when it comes to make this next decision.”

Joe Cowley says Konerko indicated that he’s looking at a three-year deal with a team that can win. The Sox certainly qualify, and since Konerko gave Jerry Reinsdorf the final out ball from the 2005 World Series, I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I’d probably put his baseline at three years and $30 million, and with a lot of lesser 30something first basemen hitting free agency as well, I’m guessing he might wait for a couple of dominoes to fall in order to properly set the market.
Gordon Beckham gave the most emphatic endorsement of Konerko yet:

“He’s the leader of the team and we need him back for that purpose alone,” Gordon Beckham  said. “If he does what he did this year next year, great. But he’s the leader of the team, and I’m not sure if he leaves this team, if there’s anyone here who can fill his shoes right off the bat. We need him mentally as much as we did physically on the field.”

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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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mechanicalturk

Of course Beckham wants Konerko around, without Konerko he’d never get to pinch run and wouldn’t have played in weeks.

fustercluck

And Gordo not ready to be promoted from Lieutenant to Captain just yet.

dalton

He has enough pressure as it is with people calling him the “face of the franchise,” “future of the franchise,” etc.

dalton

Unrelated, but is Flowers hurt? Why the heck hasn’t he been playing?

knoxfire30

Three years on Konerko is just too much. Im sorry I fully understand what the guy has done for us, but really look at his 07-09 run and tell me thats a guy now 4 years older that you want to give 3 years and 30 mil too, I play a little hard ball on a 2 year deal and obviously offer arbitration, Konerkos type A status guarantees us a high pick and a supplemental pick if he walks which will deter some teams. The other factor is the market is going to be semi flooded with 1b/dh options.
Danks, is a step behind Lester but if im representing him I hammer home the ballpark factor to narrow the gap even more, and I think Danks is going to get PAID

striker

I agree with knoxfire, 3/30 is too much for Konerko. After this year he’ll go back to .280avg, .350obp, 30HR, 90RBI. That’s not a bad line but is it worth $10/year in this market? No. But it’s not my money to spend and Reinsdorf could just give it to him from a loyalty perspective and not a business perspective. Hell, we paid Manny $4m for a month of nothing. Look at Jeter, does he really earn $20mil/year?
I realllllly hope we lock up Danks this offseason.
I think Beckham talks too much to the media. He comes off as young and naive to me.

Shinons

$10 million would certainly go farther with Dunn.

dalton

You would prefer Adam Dunn over Konerko?
Are you ready for all of those strikeouts? I am aware his OBP is higher over his career than Konerko’s, but Dunn Ks at an alarming rate. Plus, his career .BA is 29 points lower than Konerko’s.
On the positive side, he’s younger by about three years, and hits from the left side.
Anyone up for resigning Konerko and adding Dunn via free agency? What is the likelihood of this happening?

knoxfire30

Its all about OPS for me, and Dunn is simply a better offensive player when using the most important offensive stat. Career Dunn is 903, Konerko 854.

Shinons

Exactly. Konkero’s batting average is higher because he’ll get us 10 or 15 more singles. Dunn’s obp is higher because he’ll get us about 40 more walks. Which is more valuable? Add to that the 10 additional homers, and I think it’s a pretty safe argument that Dunn’s easily the more productive offensive player. Konkero also concerns me with how badly he struggles when he’s hurt – which would certainly be a problem for a 37 year old. Compared with Dunn who you know Dunn’s going to be healthy.
I’d hate to see him playing somewhere else, but this is Konerko’s last big payday and he’s going for it – and I can’t see that he would be the best value on the market if he gets what he’s looking for.
I wouldn’t bet on us being able to sign both Dunn and Konerko unless we moved Jackson. I’d think it would be more likely we went with a veteran who would sign for cheap like the Jones/Vizquel deals while waiting for Viciedo.

dalton

Dunn’s OPS is inflated in part because of how often he walks (he’s drawn over 100 BB in 7 seasons; Paulie’s highest season total was 81). If you count only Konerko’s time with Chicago, his SLG is .505, while Dunn’s is .522.
Plus, it’s Paul Konerko. It’s not like you’re sending someone packing who is washed up. Not only is he finishing up his finest statistical season, he’s the leader of the clubhouse. Is there a stat for that?
I know it’s not cool to have any emotional attachment to the individual players (after all, as we witnessed with Johnny Damon and the Red Sox fans, being a part of a specific teams means more to the fans than the players), but I don’t entirely work that way. Konerko deserves 3/$30 mil for reasons that extend beyond his OPS.
But let’s sign Dunn, too. I have not bonded emotionally with the Jones/Kotsay/Lillibridge/Teahan DH-monster.

Shinons

His OPS isn’t inflated – it is what it is because he gets on base far more often than Konkero. What difference does it make if Konkero’s batting average is prettier because he gets more singles?
As to the captain, I agree that he’s a very important clubhouse piece. But we need our offense to produce, and goodwill doesn’t drive in runs. We’ve got a finite amount of money with all we’ve got tied into our rotation and Rios, so there’s got to be tough decisions made.
I’m certainly not disparaging Konerko and don’t think he’s going to fall off some cliff. It’s just my guess that Dunn and Konerko will go for a reasonably similar amount, and that Dunn would be the better use of that money.

dalton

And, to help make your case – and to weaken mine for Konerko – Paulie grounds into infinitely more DP’s than Dunn. Dunn, though no one would confuse him for a young Barry Bonds, but back in the day, he could be counted on to swipe a few bases. Konerko was never blessed with fleet feet.

As Cirensica

Dunn will be definitely more expensive than Konerko. Konerko is under our control (We can sign him for the right numbers). Adam Dunn is not. I don’t see this as an OPS issue. It’s way beyond that. Dunn may be slightly better (offensively) than Konerko. Is that difference worth the extra money the WhiteSox will pay rather than re-signing Konerko? Dunn can be a DH. His defense is awful. Can Dunn adapt to the American League pitchers? How to quantify what the WhiteSox loses in terms of leadership by letting Konerko go. What would these Dunn fans think if the Twins sign Konerko, and bite us back like Thome did?
To be honest. 10 mil over 3 yrs is not a big deal. I think konerko will repay that easily. I want him back. I want Dunn too, but let’s keep Konerko.
Players I don’t want back:
1) Tony Pena
2) S. Linebrink
3) Tony Pena
4) Tony Pena
5) R. Williams (nice fellow, horrible pitcher)
6) M. Teahen (Nice fellow, mediocre player)
7) Tony Pena
8) Andrew Jones (He is washed out)
9) CARLOS QUENTIN (Yes, I think he sucks and he is wayyyyy overrated)
10) and finally Tony Pena
And Tony Pena in case I miss him in the previous list.
Players I would like to have back:
1) Freddy Garcia (But as a long reliever, emergency starter)
2) Omar Vizquel
3) I wouldn’t mind Kotasy, but ONLY as a PH, and occasional start to give Paulie a rest)
4) I would like to see more of Morel.
I am 50-50 with AJ Pierzynski. He is a healthy catcher. Can provide 1,000 innings…there are not many good catchers out there. Flowers…hmmmm can he hit?

knoxfire30

INFLATED? hahaha what you make it sound like a bad thing.
Dunns OPS IS HIGHER because he is a more productive offensive player.

Shinons

Gallagher, how do you figure Konerko is “under our control”? He’s a free agent. And from his comments, I don’t get the sense that we’re going to get much of a hometown discount – he seems to have made pretty clear that he wants to get paid, to the point that he’ll retire if he doesn’t get the figure he wants.
And yes, paying more for higher performance is worth it.

As Cirensica

Shinons….when I said “under our control” I really mean we have a better chance to negotiate a contract with Konerko than with Dunn.

fustercluck

First he hands Uncle Jerry the final out ball at the victory parade. Now he gets a grand slam curtain call in the final homestand. Kappy Ko’ko sure knows how to make an exit and leaves you wanting more.
3/30 sounds reasonable to me, and he probably earns it if healthy. He gives them flexibility at 1B/DH depending on who’s available for them to go after. And I don’t think they play hardball with a guy they’re on great terms with after a 10-year relationship. But by all means, let’s hear suggestions for who they can get who’s better and cheaper.

Shinons

Yes, and that was a hell of a hit too. Not a whole lot of washed up old 30-somethings can get around on a pitch like that.

dalton

Just ask Manny.

bigfun

Three years and $30 million sounds like the Sox bidding against themselves. Konerko will be competing with five or six other guys for a pretty small number of 1B jobs. Let the market pull that price down. Give him two years and $16-20 million, maybe with some kind of option for a third year.

fustercluck

So 2/20, optional 3rd year for $10MM. Now when you put it like that…

bigfun

As long as it’s a club or mutual option…

bigfun

Maybe if he was an elite player, or in his prime, or at a difficult-to-fill position. But he’s none of those things and there’s little incentive for a team to overpay.
It’s a buyers market for power hitters – look at last year with Matsui, Thome, Branyan, Guerrero, etc. Sure Konerko can demand more than those guys, but five times as much?

David

PK isn’t putting any butts in the seats at The Cell. Let’s see how many people show up over the next 3 days as he tries for his 40th HR in 2010.
Any factor that goes into the Sox decision regarding Konerko that isn’t related his potential production in 2011 and beyond is a major mistake.
Honestly, the arb draft picks aren’t a bad consolation. Next year’s draft is loaded with talent. To their credit, the Sox seem to be on the right path with recent draft picks…Beckham, Mitchell and Sale.
If given nearly equal money and contract length, I’d sign Dunn over PK every single time.

alwayssox

Konerko has some pretty severe home/road splits. Many hitters are that way to a degree and they may adjust some when going to a new park, but I wonder how other teams view his true value when factoring in he will play half his games in their stadium.