First Baseman Paul Konerko is entering the final year of a 3-year deal that was signed prior to the 2011 season. The veteran has been a member of the White Sox for 14 seasons, debuting in 1999. During his time on the south side, Konerko has been a leader, captain, and offensive force for the White Sox. He has supplied great power, a good average, and underrated defense all while playing at least 137 games every season. In addition, Konerko has been a 6-time all-star and a World Series champion. Following A.J. Pierzynski’s departure this offseason, Konerko is the only member of the 2005 World Series team that still remains. As Konerko gets set to play the last year of his contract, he continues to be an effective player. Given his production and status as team captain, the White Sox would be wise to make sure Konerko retires in Chicago.
Paul Konerko will enter the 2013 season at 37 years old, and because of that the White Sox do not need to offer him an extension right now. However, if Konerko remains healthy and has a desire to continue playing baseball following the 2013 season, the White Sox should offer him a two-year contract through the 2015 season. That contract would allow Konerko to play until he is 39 years old, and more likely to retire as he approaches 40s. Since Konerko has already expressed that he would not rule out retiring after this season, it makes me believe that he will not be playing baseball into his 40s. Furthermore, those statements also lead me to think that Konerko would rather retire than play for another team.
During Konerko’s tenure as a White Sox, he has been a fan favorite and the face of the franchise. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf has always been fond of Konerko. He played a vital role in delivering Reinsdorf his first and only World Series trophy, and also gave Reinsdorf the “final out” baseball from World Series clinching Game 4. Those two things, along with Konerko’s play, have already earned him two separate contracts and would likely force Reinsdorf to once again fork over the money needed to re-sign him.
If you are worried about Konerko’s age and potential declining skills, don’t be. Konerko has shown little signs of slowing down offensively, and should be able to post more than useful numbers for the next three seasons. As Konerko continues to get older, he will be able to split time at first base and designated hitter for the next two years while Adam Dunn is still a member of the team. The White Sox do not have a known replacement for Konerko at this time, but outfielder Dayan Viciedo could be a possible candidate to replace Konerko in 2016. Viciedo’s size, power, and mediocre fielding skills make him a strong candidate to fill that void. With Adam Dunn gone after the 2014 season, Konerko could help teach and mentor Viciedo while splitting time with him at first base and DH.
By playing his final three seasons as a White Sox, Konerko would also likely reach 500 home runs. Konerko currently sits at 422 career homers, needing only 78 more to join the elusive club. To accomplish that feat, Konerko would need to average a very-doable 26 home runs a year. Considering how much Konerko has meant to the White Sox, it would be a special moment for him, the fans, and the organization to see him reach that milestone in a Sox uniform. As a lifelong fan of Konerko and the White Sox, I would thoroughly enjoy that. I am still disappointed on how Frank Thomas’ White Sox career ended with Kenny Williams as GM, and would love to see the Sox handle Konerko’s situation differently. Seeing Thomas finish his career in another uniform, and hit his 500th home run as a Toronto Blue Jay just didn’t seem right. Hopefully, the White Sox won’t allow that to happen to another south side legend. Konerko will undoubtedly have his number 14 retired and statue erected at U.S. Cellular Field when his career is over. It would only be fitting to see that career end in Chicago.
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