COMMENTARY | Following a remarkable run with the Chicago White Sox, a stalwart in the middle of the lineup who amassed more than 400 home runs and collected more than 4,000 total bases is not re-signed after his contract expires.
That is what happened to Frank Thomas following the 2005 campaign. And if White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is thinking broadly, history will repeat itself this offseason when the team does not bring Paul Konerko back for a 16th season.
It will not be a comfortable thing to do. Unlike Thomas -- who wasn't universally admired by the fans, journalists, and front office -- Konerko has won the city over with the way he plays the game and the manner in which carries himself.
Because of that, there are some who are advocates for his return, and you can count MLB.com's Phil Rogers among them.
Rogers wrote that he hopes "the sides can work out a compromise that allows Konerko to come back and serve as a mentor to the 26-year-old (Jose) Abreu." Wait. What? Are we to believe that a spot on the 25-man roster is best used on a player who will be utilized in a largely reserve capacity? It is a shortsighted way of looking at the situation.
The White Sox have two other Cubans on the roster -- Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo -- who could serve as the emissary for Abreu's transition into the big leagues. While Ramirez could be traded this offseason, the newly acquired slugger would probably find more directed guidance from someone like Viciedo. Don't forget, the two have already played against each other, speak the same language, and have the shared experience of defecting from Cuba.
And while Konerko may not be the best mentor for Abreu, there is another thing to consider. Hahn has stated he wants to field a team of "athletic players who ideally can beat you with their bat as well as their legs," per the Chicago Sun Times' Daryl Van Schouwen. Konerko simply does not fit into speed portion of the equation (4.77 seconds from home to first), and, while the breadth of his career statistics are fantastic, he is no longer a regular force in the middle of the lineup.
The fact is that the only thing Konerko could do if he were brought back is share at-bats with Adam Dunn in some perverse version of a designated-hitter platoon. And that's just it. There is no long-term value or statistical justification to bring the first baseman back. Hitting .313 with a .212 IsoP in 113 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers like he did this past season is simply not enough to warrant one more season.
Signing him would satisfy a misplaced sense of duty on the organization's behalf to treat an icon with reverence. But where is the return on a move like that? Save the $8-10 million it will probably take to bring Konerko back into the fold and reinvest that money elsewhere. Even if those dollars are not used on free agents this offseason, there are better ways to allocate those funds, such as earmarking them for the international signing period next season.
Do not misconstrue what I am saying here.
Konerko's impact on the franchise was immense. He was one of the best players on a team that won the World Series, the face of the franchise for almost a decade, and an example of what a ballplayer should be. He was also an ambassador for the White Sox who remained loyal to an organization that took care of him and an owner he admires.
When the time comes, Konerko will have a statue on the outfield concourse at U.S. Cellular Field, just as the second-most prolific hitter in franchise history should. He was that good.
And if he wants to return, which the Daily Herald's Scott Gregor wrote "appears likely," the Sox may grant him his wish and re-sign him to a one-year deal. The time has come for the team to move in a different direction, though.
Re-signing Konerko is one move the White Sox should avoid this offseason.
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