The out-of-sight, but not out-of-mind guy should be the abiding topic of Jose Abreu’s introduction to the White Sox this morning at U.S. Cellular Field.
Abreu’s arrival and $68 million payout has been a given for several weeks. The Sox simply waited on the Cuban slugger’s passing of physicals and Major League Baseball’s blessing to announce the signing in the middle of the World Series.
The real cause-and-effect news about Abreu is the status of Paul Konerko. The Sox captain is enjoying family time back home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Very soon, he’s supposed to discuss whether he’ll come back for his 16th season with Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
The Sox aren’t going to ease Abreu into first base for $68 million. Reinsdorf expects major production and playing time by signing those kinds of checks. So if a Sox official at the Abreu press conference says Abreu’s arrival has little to do with Konerko’s future, don't buy it.
There’s nowhere to go any more at The Cell for first baseman Konerko.
You can suggest he fulfill one idea of continuing part-time by platooning with Adam Dunn at designated hitter. Certainly, Dunn has earned a reduced role, sitting against lefties at the least, with 588 strikeouts and a .197 composite average in his three Sox seasons.
But another, much bigger number that overrides all other concerns. Dunn will make $15 million in 2014. Even with a hometown, favorite-son discount for Konerko factored in, that’s likely $20 million combined for a DH.
Dunn is not grabbing a lot of bench for his compensation. And at that pay grade and production, no team takes him unless the Sox pay almost all his salary. They’re stuck with him for one more season.
The Sox could not concern themselves with Konerko’s wishes with Abreu’s availability. They need to get younger and better offensively, fast. Abreu’s reputation had to be signed ASAP. Another hitter or two will have to be gleaned through trades, likely dipping into the on-paper starting pitching surplus.
It’s a shame original Dodger Konerko couldn’t play his old positions, catcher and third base, any more. At least he could stick around like a player-coach, mentoring the kids.
Konerko would be a perfect tutor on both sides of the ball for Abreu. But he’d also have to somehow earn his keep as a player in the process.
A fitting question for the Abreu press conference is asking about his level of plate discipline. Another swing-first, ask-questions-later kind of hitter is the last thing the offensively inept Sox need.
There should be some clarity about Konerko as soon as possible. He’s much too respected a figure in Sox history to be left hanging.