Monday, Oct. 4, 2010
By Chuck Garfien
It's the day after the White Sox 2010 season came to an end. Paul Konerko is already back at his home in Arizona, hopefully just a pit stop before he re-signs with the Sox in the offseason. Bill Melton also lives in Arizona. He's returning home the old-fashioned way; in his car, driving the 1,700 miles by himself. He's probably somewhere around Joplin, Mo., by now, thinking about that home run he hit off Catfish Hunter in 1971.
Before he left, I asked him if he had any CDs to listen to for such an exhausting trip.
Nope. Just me and the road, he replied. So Melton.
As for me, I remain here in Chicago, with a couple days off before turning my attention to the Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears, and returning to the office and our brand new postgame set, which I almost burned to the ground. See the video above.
Kenny Williams will probably take a few days to recharge his batteries. Actually, if I know Kenny, it might only be a few minutes. The Sox general manager has some tough decisions to make in the months ahead. But for those of you who cant wait that long for the offseason to unfold, here are my predictions for 2011.
Please, no wagering.
Let's start with the four World Series heroes, and their chances of coming back:
Paul Konerko: 50 percent
The Sox first baseman, a free agent who was all-world in 2010, could command a two- or three-year deal worth 15 million a season. He averaged 12 million in his last contract signed in 2005. Williams spoke with Konerko at his locker for a few minutes before Sundays game. Jerry Reinsdorf did the same on Saturday. Both seem to be laying the foundation for the start of negotiations, but what the Sox canwill offer is anybodys guess.
"Jerry Reinsdorf, myself, and Ozzie Guillen, wed like to have him back," Williams said. "Lets be completely clear on that. Whether that happens or not because of all the variables, I have no clue right now."
Konerko is just as unclear. Sunday when I asked him if he was optimistic about re-signing, he replied, "I really have no opinion. I dont know what to think." And while hed prefer to stay with the White Sox, he is certainly open to the idea of playing elsewhere. "Pick a team out of a hat, and well see how it develops," Konerko said.
Say this. Paulies a good negotiator. In person, and in the press.
Williams doesnt know what his payroll will be for 2011. But it will likely be less than 2010. Asked Sunday if the economy and lower attendance will affect what he can spend, Williams said, How much? I dont know. Will it? Yes.
Konerko and Adam Dunn are the kings of this years free agent class at first base, and Dunn coincidentally fits in with what Williams is looking for: a lefty power hitter who can do damage.
That, along with the money situation, is part of the variables that Williams speaks of. But if the Sox pursue Dunn -- which they certainly will -- there will be plenty of competition, especially from the Cubs, where several players have already started campaigning for his services. Plus, Dunn has expressed his love for playing at Wrigley Field.
In the end, expect the White Sox to do everything in their power to bring Paulie back, at their price. Letting the heart and soul of the franchise leave after one of his best seasons would be a PR nightmare. But Reinsdorf has been down this road before. Remember Michael Jordan?
If all parties involved dont know where this is headed, how can I? Thats why its 50-50.
A.J. Pierzynski: 40 percent
This is a tough one. On the surface, it would seem the White Sox have very little choice but to bring him back. Hes one of the most durable catchers in the league, he calls a great game behind home plate, bats left-handed, is a fixture in the clubhouse and wants to come back. Furthermore, after batting .220 in Triple-A, Tyler Flowers, the Sox catcher of the future, doesnt seem ready for the starting job.
But Pierzynski heads into the offseason just hanging there, unlike the end of 2007 when he signed a two-year contract extension in late September, that paid him 6.25 million in 2009 and 2010.
Meanwhile, there are several cheaper alternatives heading to the market. Free agents like Josh Bard, John Buck, Ramon Hernandez and Gerald Laird will be available. Plus, there could be many non-tender candidates like Russell Martin, Ronny Paulino, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis. Its definitely a fluid market.
Speaking with him at his locker after Sundays game, Pierzynski made it known that while he wants to return to the Sox and might even take a hometown discount, hell only come back if the money is fair.
Im not going to take the worst deal of all time to come back here, Pierzynski said. Everyone knows my feelings about this place, this team and the owner and everyone involved. I love the White Sox and the city of Chicago, but at the same time I need to do whats best for me and my family. But Im not just going to come crawling back. I hope there are other teams interested, and I get a fair price, get a deal done and well go from there.
This will be very interesting to see how it plays out. It sounds like Kenny wants to do some shopping. He might end up going back to A.J., but if he sees something shiny and new in the window, dont be surprised if he walks into the store and buys it.
Bobby Jenks: 1 percent
On Saturday, Id say that Bobby had some chance of staying with the Sox. But after Sundays comments from Williams, theres little-to-no chance he returns.
As I sit here right now, that is something that we really have to evaluate strongly, Williams said of Jenks. Ive been disappointed on a number of levels. And there are certain things that Im not going to talk about right now.
Jenks battled injuries in 2010 and proved to be unreliable in certain stretches, even losing his closer role for a few games. He is arbitration eligible, and would likely earn around 9 or 10 million next season. Expect the Sox to either non-tender Jenks, or sign him to a new contract and trade him.
What does Jenks think?
If Im here, thats great. If not, damndest game.
Freddy Garcia: 25 percent
Right now, the Sox have six, and potentially seven starters for next season. Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson are in (unless one of them gets dealt). Thats four. Add Jake Peavy, thats five. Williams has expressed the desire to have Chris Sale be a starter -- thats six. Where does that leave Garcia, a free agent? Likely out the door.
Its not how a pitcher should be treated after going 12-6, especially since Garcia won a total of five games in the previous three seasons combined. But the Sox pitching staff seems like its moving on without him.
Still, he proved to be one of the Sox biggest bargains, making just 1 million. Maybe he becomes the Sox new long relief man, or maybe he signs with the Yankees. Freddy likes the big games and the big stage. Theres nothing bigger than playing in the Bronx.
He definitely wont sign with the Royals or Indians.
Williams will have the Padres on speed dial in his pursuit of Adrian Gonzalez. But is there room and enough money for Gonzalez and Konerko?
Carlos Quentin will come to spring training with a smile on his face. Hopefully it lasts until May. Probably not.
J.J. Putz will win a fantasy football league. Hes in six of them! Hes a free agent, and says he has no clue if hell be back with the Sox next season. I personally think he will. No way he parts with Matt Thornton, theyll be like lost puppies.
Omar Vizquel will continue to age backwards. The Sox will try to resign him, but by December hell be 8 years old and without a cell phone.
Sale will gain weight. About one pound.
Dayan Viciedo will draw a walk. He has to. He certainly doesnt during the season.
Manny Ramirez will stop speaking both English AND Spanish. Youll only be able to talk to him in German, and hell sign a minor-league contract with the Red Sox.
Jermaine Dye will be back in the majors. Likely in Seattle with the Mariners new manager, Joey Cora.
And with that, the Sox Drawer is closed for the 2010 season. But it will be open for business throughout the winter as the Sox prepare for 2011. Theres always something to write about it. Thanks for reading. Thanks for watching.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.