White Sox

Konerko realistic, but not conceding anything

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Konerko realistic, but not conceding anything

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When the doors to the White Sox clubhouse opened to the media Tuesday morning, every single reporter and camera went straight to Paul Konerkos locker, waiting to hear what wisdom the intelligent, thought-provoking captain would share about the 2012 season.

He did not disappoint.

Konerko offered his opinions about the franchise, the direction its going, the loss of Mark Buehrle and the distractions of 2011 -- saying more on that subject than anyone has publicly verbalized.

With the White Sox entering the first year of a rebuilding phase, Konerko says he knew it was coming, when last season ended. Now seeing the moves that Williams made -- trading Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin, not re-signing Buehrle -- he issued a message to White Sox fans that will certainly make news around Chicago.

I hope I dont throw anybody off with this, but this could be a very successful year without making the playoffs, said Konerko.

Its a statement that, coming from the long-time captain, certainly raised eyebrows.
For the last seven years, the team has had a playoffs-or-bust mentality. Now, theyve been forced to take a step back with their roster, with a blend of players for the present and future -- not always the greatest way to go about winning a title. Unfortunately, this happens to be where theyre at.

Asked to elaborate on the topic, Konerko verbalized the plan the White Sox have put in place.

Whats happening here is that theyre trying to build something a little more sustainable. My point is, if we go out and compete this year, and it doesnt happen, you see this with other teams in the league, they kind of pick up the next year with that momentum the year before and I think thats why it could be successful, Konerko said. Im not conceding anything. In todays game theres way too many teams, especially now with possibly another wildcard team theres all kind of different things that are available to make the playoffs and there seems to be more parity.

If we dont make the playoffs but we do it right, and we compete well, and you look up at the end of the year and Brent Morel has had a really good year and Gordon Beckham has had a good year, and Addison Reed, those are all good signs that its moving in the right direction, so that can be in my mind a success. But again, you dont concede anything because anything can happen.

Konerko is entering the second year of a three-year deal with the White Sox. When I asked him at SoxFest last month if 2013 might be his last in the majors, he said, No doubt it could be.

Knowing that, does he want to stay with a team that might not be ready to contend during the remainder of his contract? He does have a no-trade clause, but could waive it if given an opportunity to win another World Series.

But Konerko says he doesnt want to go anywhere.

Im happy I won a World Series. Ill always have that in my pocket. Id love to win another one, but if that doesnt happen thats cool too, Konerko said. I look at this stage of my career, that if it means Ive got to play a couple more years, 2-3 years just so I can lead here and hopefully get this organization, this team back on track, and then I leave, and those guys do the job then thats fine with me. I feel like thats what I owe the team.

Konerko and Buehrle had been teammates since 2000. Its a bond that goes way back.
Not having Buehrle in the clubhouse for the first time in 12 years was tough for Konerko to verbalize -- even for him.

Not seeing Marks locker...I dont know what to say about that. It doesnt seem right.

One of the reasons Buehrle isnt here is because so many things went wrong in 2011.
From Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham, and Alex Rios struggling to Jake Peavys health to the feud between Williams and Guillen -- it became a non-stop soap opera.

By the time September came around, instead of chasing the Tigers, the Sox were chasing their own tails. Players and coaches have repeatedly said that the off-field distractions did not affect their play. Tuesday, Konerko came out and said the opposite.

There was definitely some times, late in the year especially where there was probably games and days given away because of people worrying about things that were not related to the game of baseball, Konerko said. We were just giving away games. As a big league player, you should be more mentally tougher than to have that stuff bother you.

Now with a new season ahead, with a new mix of coaches, and the dust from the Williams-Guillen fight completely wiped clean, Konerko says, I dont see that being an issue.

As for the end of the finish line? Konerko knows hes getting close to it.

At this point, its kind of a sprint. I can see the end. Im trying to battle and get out there and leave it all out there.

If Konerko leads and his teammates follow. That might be the best plan of all.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Everything we learned from Rick Hahn at the G.M. Meetings

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Everything we learned from Rick Hahn at the G.M. Meetings

Chuck Garfien speaks with Vinnie Duber who is covering the G.M. Meetings in Arizona where Rick Hahn spoke with the media for the first time in the offseason.

Why Vinnie's big takeaway is "don't take anything off the table" this offseason for the White Sox (1:45), Hahn talks about signing premium free agents and the Machado experience (6:00), weighing defense vs. hitting for who they get to play right field (9:10), would they move Yoan Moncada from third base if they signed a certain free agent?(11:45), where are things with Jose Abreu (21:00) and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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No move is off the table for White Sox this offseason

No move is off the table for White Sox this offseason

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — What exactly will the White Sox do this offseason? If you have access to some truth serum, you’ve got a decent shot at finding out.

Despite the seemingly public nature of the White Sox pursuit of Manny Machado last winter, Rick Hahn doesn’t really talk about specific targets. So there was no word from the general manager Tuesday on whether there actually exist attempts to lure Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or your heretofore unnamed favorite free agent to the South Side.

But there was one big takeaway from Hahn’s roughly 45-minute session with reporters at the GM meetings: No move is off the table for the White Sox this winter.

We’ve long analyzed whether Player X fits better than Player Y, whether the White Sox are looking for a long-term piece or should be targeting short-term pieces, whether it makes any sense to pursue a player who plays a position the White Sox already have spoken for, et cetera, et cetera.

Well forget about all those disclaimers. There seems to be no door Hahn’s front office is going to close in the name of improving this team.

Just go down the list of potential additions the White Sox could make this winter, and you’ll see what I mean.

Short-term additions are on the table

Are the White Sox, who have long touted the importance of long-term fits, still shying away from shorter-term additions? No. Long-term additions are better, but … 

“We're getting closer to the point where it makes more sense to have one- or two-year fixes in place. Ideally, we want to find a way to add to the core, guys that are going to be here for a long time and continue to grow with what we've already accumulated. In reality, that's a little easier said than done, so some of the improvements may come on a shorter-term basis.

“Yeah, we've gotten to that point where it does make some sense to add a couple of those types.”

Older veterans who haven’t always seemed like the best fit for a young, rebuilding team? Now that the White Sox are nearing their transition from rebuilding to contending, those guys become realistic options. On the table.

A trade for a player with one year of control (like Mookie Betts) is on the table

Would the White Sox trade for a player with just one season of club control remaining on his contract? Yes. Guys with more control are better, but … 

“You want guys who are going to fit for the long-term,” Hahn said. “We want to add a guy who's got a three-, four-, five-, six-year window of control, where he's going to continue to improve and he's going to grow with this young core. Those guys aren't so easy to acquire.

“Short of that, we're going to look for guys who can certainly make you better in the short-term but ideally have a little back-end control. If those don't exist, if we don't come across the right fit, then we'd be open to a one-year improvement knowing that with where we've put ourselves economically, we might have the ability to retain that player when they hit free agency.”

Interesting, considering the Boston Red Sox might be dealing away Mookie Betts in their quest to get under the luxury tax. Betts seems set on heading to free agency after next season, meaning whichever team acquires him would only be doing so for one year. But the White Sox could use a player of that caliber in their lineup and a player of that caliber in right field. Sounds like they wouldn’t exactly lack confidence in their ability to make his stay last more than just one year, either. On the table.

A right fielder who plays suboptimal defense (like Nicholas Castellanos) is on the table

Speaking of right field, just how important the White Sox add a right fielder who can play some defense? Very. But … 

“It’s a legitimate consideration. We don't want to send somebody out there and it's going to, you know, tax our center fielder too much or tax the pitchers too much by not making plays,” Hahn said. “So it's a legitimate consideration.

“I pause half a step because we have discussed some pretty good offensive contributors who might not quite be up to snuff to what you want defensively that conceivably at some point in the offseason we wind up saying, ‘They're the best option, so let's move on it.’ So I don't want to just say it's the end all be all.”

Interesting, considering that the top outfielder on the free-agent market fits the description of someone who swings a difference-making bat but might not be “up to snuff” defensively. Castellanos’ offense is not a question, and while his defense is probably not as bad as his reputation would lead you to believe, the reputation exists for a reason. Putting him in the same outfield with work-in-progress Eloy Jimenez would be less than ideal. But putting their bats in the same lineup might be too much to pass up. On the table.

A professional DH (like Edwin Encarnacion) is on the table

When adding a designated hitter, do the White Sox want someone who has plenty of DH-ing experience and could DH on an everyday basis? No. But … 

“We're not eager to get locked in with someone positionally who can only DH,” Hahn said. “I think having a guy who can fill that role but also go out and play a defensive position would be a net greater benefit. We're talking about generic, hypothetical players.

“If you're talking about a guy Nelson Cruz, yeah, you're OK with that guy just being a DH. If you're talking about lower caliber guy than that, then maybe you want them to add some defensive value, as well, to move them around the diamond and get other guys off their feet from time to time.”

Ideally, the White Sox would like some versatility. It’d be nice to have a Cruz-esque thumper at DH, too. One of those exists on the free-agent market in Edwin Encarnacion. On the table.

A player who plays position the White Sox already have (like Anthony Rendon) is on the table

And what about Rendon? He’s the top position player on the free-agent market. He also plays third base, the same position Yoan Moncada does. Moncada had himself a terrific year playing third for the White Sox. Would they change his position for a second straight season? They don’t want to. But … 

“In terms of moving Yoan, that's not a goal. We're not looking to move him,” Hahn said. “We think he's a really, really good third baseman and will be that for a long time.

“When we have players with flexibility and athleticism, you at least consider different permutations. We wouldn't be doing our job if there was a way for us to get better that we just ruled out because we have set at a certain spot.”

Interesting. Rendon seems like the type of player you rearrange your defense for. He’s one of the best hitters in the game and would accomplish the White Sox goal of adding a premium talent to their rebuilding project. Moncada’s versatility could play a big role in that. On the table.

Top-of-the-rotation pitchers (like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg) are on the table

What kind of starting pitchers are the White Sox looking for this winter? Top-of-the-rotation guys or middle-of-the-rotation guys?

“We have room for improvement in both spots,” Hahn said. “We'll continue the trade and free-agent market for all different types of starters, and any ones that we feel are going to make us better both short- and potentially long-term, we'll be in on.”

That’s extraordinarily all-encompassing, but instead of viewing it as the White Sox not saying much, view it as there being many different possibilities. Cole and Strasburg fit the mold of top-of-the-rotation arms, as do fellow free agents Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel. Zack Wheeler and Jake Odorizzi might be more of the middle-of-the-rotation types. All of them and more are on the table.

———

That’s a breakneck assessment of the situations, but the takeaway remains: No move appears to be off the table for the White Sox in this stage of the offseason, and that ought to have folks looking for big splashes at every turn pretty excited.

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