Konerko decides to play another season
White Sox captain expected to fill roles of part-time DH and clubhouse mentor
White Sox captain Paul Konerko will return to play next season.
The six-time All-Star will remain with Chicago on a one-year, $2.5 million contract, with $1 million of it deferred until 2021. Under terms of his previous contract, signed in December 2010, Konerko is to receive $1 million annually from 2014-20.
Konerko met with White Sox brass in November but didn't inform the team of his decision to return until Tuesday, with the signing becoming official on Wednesday.
"It really wasn't a difficult process on our end," White Sox senior vice president/general manager Rick Hahn said in a conference call. "It was giving Paulie the information and time and space on his decision and his new role. It was incumbent on us to be honest about how the fit would work out with the club moving forward."
Konerko is expected to be used in a part-time role in 2014, seeing time as a designated hitter against left-handed hitters and working with Jose Abreu's transition into the role of the club's primary first baseman. Abreu is a 26-year-old Cuban defector who signed a six-year contract with the White Sox in October.
Konerko, who turns 38 on March 5, said he's comfortable with his new role, and didn't want to retire with a sour taste in his mouth after both he and the White Sox struggled last season.
"For me, I pretty much knew from being around the game and the natural evolution of a player, I knew back in August, September, that if I was going to play next year, it was going to be like this," Konerko said. "Accepting the role, I'm probably way ahead of everybody else on this one because I knew where this was going to head."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who was also on the conference call, said he'll find ways to get Konerko in the lineup despite having Adam Dunn and Abreu on the roster.
"I think matchups will have something to do with it," Ventura said. "There will be some mixing and matching. But with how professional these guys are, I don't have to bang my head over it. I'm not limiting him to just DH. We'll see in Spring Training how it evolves and how it goes. I'm just happy having these guys and what they bring to the team."
But the White Sox are bringing back Konerko for more than just his playing ability, as they value his leadership in the clubhouse as the face of the franchise for the last 15 years.
"A large part of the role is his presence in the clubhouse," Hahn said. "Having him around as a role model has a lot of value to us as we build this roster."
Konerko, who has spent 15 of his 17 Major League seasons with Chicago, hit .244 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs in 126 games this past season. His 434 career home runs rank fifth among active players and are tied with Juan Gonzalez and Andruw Jones for 42nd place in Major League history. His 1,390 RBIs are sixth among active players and 75th all-time.
He ranks second in White Sox history in home runs (427), RBIs (1,361), total bases (3,944) and games played (2,187) and third in hits (2,249) and doubles (398). He needs five total bases and 21 homers to tie the franchise records held by Frank Thomas. Konerko's 13 seasons of 20 or more homers are a franchise record, and his 10 grand slams are tied with Ventura for the club mark.
"Paul Konerko has been the constant face of the White Sox organization and the heart of our clubhouse over the past 15 seasons," said chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. "He certainly earned the right to make this decision on his own, and we are very pleased that he has decided to return for another season. While the accomplishments speak for themselves -- six All-Star Games, a World Series title, 427 home runs with the White Sox -- anyone who is in our clubhouse day in and day out knows the value Paul brings to our franchise as a leader, as a teammate, as a mentor and as our captain."