The contract that 37-year-old Paul Konerko signed with the Chicago White Sox looks like it was worked out by a state lottery authority, and Paulie is not getting the lump sum. The Sox sent a press release Wednesday morning saying Konerko will make $2.5 million for 2014 — which would be an $11 million pay cut if he makes it through a 17th full major league season — but the details are not as frugal, or as simple:
Under terms of the deal, the six-time American League All-Star will receive $1.5 million in 2014 and $1 million in 2021. Under terms of his previous contract signed on December 8, 2010, Konerko will receive $1 million annually from 2014-2020.
Adding it all up, Konerko will make $9.5 million — it'll just take six years to get it all. That's some deferment right there. Pre-ferment and post-ferment. 'Tween-ferment, too. It's like they've financed him. It seems like a very Jerry Reinsdorfian move, too, but the White Sox owner always has been a little "creative" when it comes to contracts. Reinsdorf, predictably, is also being loyal to Konerko, who took his time deciding to return after having the worst season of his career.
When a guy puts in the work Konerko has, and it includes a World Series championship, after which Konerko personally made sure that Reinsdorf got the ball used for the last out, some loyalty is to be expected. No matter that the White Sox already have Adam Dunn and Jose Abreu on the roster clogging first base and designated hitter, giving Konerko no obvious role. But the Sox have alternative ideas on how Konerko might contribute in 2014. General manager Rick Hahn says:
“As Robin Ventura and I discussed with him when we met in November, Paul will play an important role on the 2014 team by collecting at-bats as the designated hitter against certain left-handed pitching, by assisting Jose Abreu’s transition into the role of primary first baseman, as an option for Robin off the bench in specific game situations, and as an incredibly important mentor and leader within our clubhouse.”
“I’m looking forward to coming back in a new role where I can help both the organization and my teammates get turned around in the right direction and also do some productive things on the field."
They make it sound like Ventura is grooming his successor as manager already. But, as the South Side Sox blog points out, Konerko hasn't exactly been a Jason Giambi-like extrovert in his career. Giambi interviewed to be Rockies manager before he signed with the Indians last year, but was said to provide something of a player-coach perspective in Cleveland:
[W]hen you read about how Giambi goes about it, there are adjectives and phrases seldom, if ever, associated with Konerko:
- "Made everybody he touches better"
- "Impact he's had on guys' individual development"
It's not that Konerko isn't any of those things, or hasn't done any of those things. But when you read about Giambi, it's phrased as active and outward. Here's an example of Giambi calling a meeting after getting swept by the Royals in September. Konerko is a guy who sees meetings as a last resort of a sinking ship.
Konerko has been one of the best White Sox players ever, and he deserves respect. But nothing is as cut and dried as it seems here. Not Konerko's contract, not the motivations behind his return to the White Sox or the perceived benefits, none of it. The White Sox want it to be a feel-good story, and maybe it will be. Right now, it's a feel-strange story.
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