White Sox

Captain Konerko returns to the fold

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Captain Konerko returns to the fold

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted 9:54 AM Updated 3:53 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. - Even downspirited Tuesday after a long day of talking loud and saying nothing, Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams was clear with one goal: "I want the man back."

'The man' in question was 12-year Pale Hose first sacker Paul Konerko, and indeed the fan favorite did end up coming back, inking a three-year, 37.5 million dollar deal that will stretch his storied White Sox tenure to 15 seasons.

"When I talk about Paul Konerko, I first have to talk about the first-class person that he is," a beaming Williams said from the main podium at the Winter Meetings. "Believe me, that factors into our equation. It's one of the things that Craig Landis, his agent and representative, and I talk about all the time, the type of person this guy is, not just on the field but in the clubhouse, on the team bus and the hotel."

"Definitely, to come back was always first in my mind," Konerko said. "Having said that, I began a yearlong preparation for the fact that it might not happen that way. It was my goal at the end of the last contract to come back and get 10 years-plus with one team, and I thought that was really cool - not to mention having a chance to win while you're doing it. Now to sit here and say it's going to be 15, that's a nice round number."

It wasn't always looking like Konerko would stay in Chicago long enough to see 15 on the South Side.

"We were very, very close to going in a different direction, and I'm sure they were, as well," Williams said. "We had a consistent dialogue throughout the meetings, but I wouldn't say things really started to come together until after I left our press conference at 5 p.m. yesterday - and things just finished up over dinner.

"But Craig probably should have waited a little longer. He might have gotten a little bit more money because assistant GM Rick Hahn and I started to tip a few back after a while," Williams continued, laughing.

On the other hand, Konerko was openly courted by several teams, including his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks.

"Arizona definitely was a possibility, something that was intriguing to me," Konerko admitted. "It was a great option to have, but it didn't work out going that way. But I was thrilled that they were interested in me."

We knew of Arizona's interest," Williams said. "When you hit .300 and 39 home runs and drive in how many, I would anticipate there is going to be some interest in you. And if that were ultimately his choice and he decided to stay home, and took even less money to stay home, I would not have begrudged him one bit. I would be saying the same positive things about who he is and what he's all about that I am today."

Konerko hadn't intended on stretching the Chisox over a barrel, but the strange nature of his second shot at a significant free agent contract caught him off-guard.

"This whole free agent process was a lot different than the last time I went through this," he said. "Last time 2005, we were in contact with the White Sox from early November, and other teams as well. This time, in the last four or five days, that's where everything came in. It became more of a mad rush. It heated up much later but much faster, and it's one of those things that if yesterday was a bad day as far as the White Sox were concerned, I'm probably not wearing the uniform this season."

Konerko recounted being on a beach in Mexico last week and getting word that the White Sox had signed slugger Adam Dunn and immediately thinking, "OK, that was a fun 12 years. It's either me or him."

But GM Ken Williams had stated consistently over the past two months that getting Konerko back on the South Side was his top priority, something that wasn't lost on Konerko.

"I remembered Kenny telling me at the end of the year, "If we go after this next year, we want to win it. I don't want you or Adam. I want both of you.'"

Williams not only bagged both big sticks, but at a nice price, 26 million next season and up from there. Konerko gets 12 million in both 2011 and 2012, 6.5 million in 2013, and 1 million per season after that, until 2020.

Despite buzzing after a flurry of activity in the space of a week - the rush of the Dunn signing, A.J Pierzynski's quick, accommodating re-up, and Konerko's return - Williams was not altogether surprised at how perfectly the Winter Meetings concluded for his team.

In spite of his weary eyes and clearly a desperate need for sleep, Williams will immediately tackle what little is left on the board for his club in terms of personnel, as well as the elephant in the room - the prohibitive pricetag of the franchise's biggest payroll of all time.

"Next on the agenda is figuring out a way to pay for all of this," Williams said, laughing. "We certainly ramped it up here recently and have been very aggressive. We've got some work cut out for us, and we are at a point where we have to get a little creative, because we are about tapped out right now. So we either need to get creative or we need to get a flood at the ticket counter pretty quickly."

Those are concerns for the pencil-pushers, true. For now, and once again: In the end, Williams has succeeded in turning his dreams into action: "You set your sights on your targets and what you want to do, develop your plans, and go full steam ahead toward them."

And part of those plans, for another three years, is the White Sox's folk hero of a first baseman.

"We are just thrilled to have not only the player, but the person," Williams said. "Hopefully, we can one day have him retire as a White Sox."
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

White Sox reportedly one of teams 'expressing interest' in Christian Yelich, but does a trade for Marlins star make sense?

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly one of teams 'expressing interest' in Christian Yelich, but does a trade for Marlins star make sense?

A big offseason splash for the rebuilding White Sox?

After being rumored to potentially trade for Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado last month during the Winter Meetings, the next name on many fans' offseason wish list is Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich.

Yelich is an intriguing candidate for the obvious reason that he's really good, but he also has an uncommon amount of team control remaining on his contract, as many as five years, to be exact. It all adds up to him being a far better fit for a rebuilding team like the White Sox than the aforementioned Machado, who is slated to hit free agency after the upcoming 2018 season.

According to a Friday report from Jon Heyman, the White Sox are one of many teams "expressing interest" in Yelich, who figures to be on the trading block soon given the Marlins' activity this offseason. The Fish, now headed by Derek Jeter, have already traded away several All-Star players, with Giancarlo Stanton going to the New York Yankees, Marcell Ozuna going to the St. Louis Cardinals and Dee Gordon going to the Seattle Mariners. Yelich, who would figure to fetch a hefty return package, is speculated to be the next to go, along with catcher J.T. Realmulto. Yelich's agent told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick a couple days ago that Yelich's relationship with the Marlins is "irretrievably broken."

Joining the White Sox on Heyman's reported list are the Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres.

That's obviously a lot of competition, but the White Sox and their stacked farm system would figure to line up well with any team looking to move a star major leaguer for a big package of prospects. With all the minor league talent general manager Rick Hahn has acquired over the past year-plus, there are more highly touted players than there are spots in the White Sox lineup and rotation of the future, meaning some of those players could eventually turn into trade candidates.

But the key word there is "eventually," and it might speak to why a Yelich trade doesn't quite make sense for the White Sox right this moment.

The White Sox aren't expected to contend for a championship in 2018, and that could very well be the case in 2019, as well. This year and perhaps the next will be dedicated to waiting for all these young players to develop, and when that process concludes, Hahn and his front office will have a far better idea of what they have and what holes they need to fill — be that through a big free-agent signing or a trade. But the team hasn't reached that point yet.

Of course, there's plenty to love about Yelich. The 26-year-old already has five big league seasons under his belt, with a collective .290/.369/.432 slash line and a combined 146 doubles in those years. Plus, the power numbers have spiked in the last two seasons, with 21 homers and 98 RBIs in 2016 and 18 homers and 81 RBIs last season. He's also a Gold Glove winner in the outfield and has that alluring contract that thanks to an option could keep him away from free agency until after the 2022 season, definitely past when the White Sox hope to be perennial contenders.

A hypothetical trade for Yelich makes much more sense than one for Machado, that's for sure. But the White Sox still have spent a lot of time and effort carefully laying rebuilding plans, and those plans would need to be drastically altered, one would assume, in order to land a Fish like Yelich. It makes far more sense for the White Sox to exercise the patience that Hahn preached at the Winter Meetings and wait to see exactly what they have — and where — with their mountain of prospects.

Meet the Prospects: Evan Skoug

Meet the Prospects: Evan Skoug

The White Sox rebuild is in full swing. While it might still be a year or two before the big league team is expected to start competing for championships, the minor leagues are stocked with highly touted talent fans will be eagerly following in 2018. With that in mind, it's time to Meet the Prospects and get to know the future of the South Side.

Evan Skoug

Skoug, the 22-year-old catcher, was a seventh-round pick of the White Sox in last summer's draft.

A Libertyville native, Skoug played his college ball at TCU, where he and the Horned Frogs made three consecutive College World Series appearances in the last three years. During his final season at TCU, Skoug slashed .272/.378/.544 with a whopping 20 homers and 71 RBIs.

After joining the White Sox organization, Skoug played 21 games with Class A Kannpolis, only picking up 10 hits — but two homers and two triples — in his 76 plate appearances.

As of their most recent rankings, MLB Pipeline had Skoug rated as the No. 24 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Get to know Skoug in the video above.