Sunday, August 11, 2013
Is Paul Konerko era on its last legs?
By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- The clock is ticking louder now as the potential end to a memorable Chicago White Sox era is getting closer.
Paul Konerko is under contract with the White Sox for only seven more weeks and the future remains murky beyond that.
Konerko has been in this spot twice before, of course, and both times he ended up reaching an agreement with the White Sox to stay a little longer. Odds of that happening this offseason are less certain since the White Sox are retooling the roster and, at 37, the team captain has performed well below his run-producing standards.
Paul Konerko's future with the White Sox is up in the air.
Konerko is making $13.5 million this season and while fighting through injuries, in particular a back issue, he has given the White Sox nine home runs, while his 40 RBIs are third on the team behind Adam Dunn (60) and Alejandro De Aza (48).
If he doesn’t return, Konerko could always sign elsewhere in the offseason or he could call it a career and head into retirement. Earlier this week, when talking about the retirement tour of the New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera, Konerko said he hasn’t started the retirement conversation.
“I don’t know,” said Konerko, who agreed to defer $7 million of his 2013 salary in $1 million yearly installments until 2020. “I haven’t thought about it that much.”
Konerko was asked Sunday if the disappointing season would play a role in what he does moving forward.
“There’s a million things and that could be one of them, but we’ll just worry about that when the time comes,” Konerko said. “There’s a lot of moving parts to it.”
With options at first base that include Adam Dunn (under contract through 2014) and even Dayan Viciedo, the belief is that the White Sox and Konerko will part ways. But the White Sox have also shed somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million between now and the end of next season through trades.
Bringing back Konerko at a reduced salary is an idea that figures to be explored.
“He’s not going to play for another 10 years; that much everybody knows,” Ventura said. “How much he plays longer than this season is really up to him. He’s had spurts where it’s good and injuries and things that there have been periods where it is slowed him down. That’s natural for everyone when you get to a point in your career that he’s at right now.
“Ultimately he’s the guy who has to figure that out and decide.”
Konerko is in that window where the even best power hitters in the game can start to slide. Some can maintain their power into their late 30s, while others trail off in their mid 30s. A slow start, coupled with a lower back strain that kept him out of action for most of July has robbed Konerko of his power this year.
He is on pace to hit just 13 home runs this season, easily the lowest number of his career.
“I think with everybody, their bat speed is not going to be the way it was when they were 25,” Ventura said. “It’s just the way it is. You can still see the way he has at-bats like he did (Saturday). He does have good at-bats and is able to adjust and make up for it.”
Ventura said he has talked to Konerko about retirement, but only in passing.
“We’ve talked a couple of times early,” Ventura said. “It was more about his playing time just to make sure that the longevity of it to get through this season of health stuff. It was more of that than how long he would play. It was more of I wanted to make sure that on a day like today he is the DH or the doubleheader he isn’t playing both ends. You just want to keep him fresh.”
Konerko has suggested that when his time as a player is over he has interests outside of the game that will occupy his time, but Ventura would like to see him stay around baseball in come capacity.
“There’s going to be a period where he wants to do something else for a while and every player should probably do that,” Ventura said. “After that, he’s just good guy who understands the game and he’s just a good baseball guy. I think any organization -- and it would probably be this one that gets to benefit from it -- would be lucky to have him.”