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Drafting a plan for life without Konerko

12/1/2010
If Paul Konerko leaves the White Sox, the most effective way to replace him is to re-invest that money into other areas of need. AP Photo/John Smierciak

Not any closer to re-signing Paul Konerko, the Chicago White Sox at least were able to collect a few potential parting gifts if the Type A free agent bolts to another team.

With Konerko declining the team’s offer of salary arbitration, the White Sox will now get a high-round draft pick from the team that signs him and a supplemental pick (a selection between the first and second rounds).

Type B free agent J.J. Putz also declined the team’s arbitration offer with the White Sox getting only a supplemental pick if he leaves.

It doesn’t sound like the greatest exchange of all time. It’s something along the lines of the city removing your full-grown oak tree and giving you a couple of acorns in return. But sometimes seed can grow to grand stature.

Consider this about White Sox first-round draft picks: Going back to 1987, 76 percent (19 of 25) spent at least a day in the major leagues. That includes 2010 first-round pick Chris Sale.

But for every Jack McDowell (1987), Robin Ventura (1988) and Frank Thomas (1989), there have been the less productive major leaguers like Jeff Liefer (1995), Jason Dellaero (1997) and Joe Borchard (2000).

And make no mistake, a team’s first-round pick probably isn’t going to yield the White Sox a Stephen Strasburg. If a team that signs Konerko has one of the top 15 picks in the first round, the White Sox end up getting that team’s second-round pick instead.

Then consider the supplemental, or sandwich, picks. The White Sox have had 14 of those, with Jim Parque (1997) and Aaron Rowand (1998) emerging from that group. But even if supplemental picks makes the major leagues they hardly turn into the type of player they are replacing.

Tyler Lumsden (2004) was a compensation pick for Bartolo Colon’s departure. Brian West was selected in 1999 for Albert Belle and Wyatt Allen was picked in 2001 for Charles Johnson. None have made the major leagues, with Lumsden pitching for the Astros and Padres at Double-A this past season.

The quickest way to recover from a key player’s departure is to reinvest that player’s money and do it wisely. Along with a first baseman that would be necessary if Konerko leaves, the White Sox would still need a catcher, not to mention rebuilding the bullpen.

With around $70 million already committed to 2011 salaries, some $30 million remains to fill some key spots. Expect at least one major investment and then let the bargain shopping begin.