Konerko re-signs with the White Sox

By Etheria Modacure

Paul Konerko was prepared for life away from the South Side, but White Sox General Manager Ken Williams was unwilling to let the team’s captain and face of the franchise the past few seasons go too easily. After signing Adam Dunn and re-signing A.J. Pierzynski on Dec. 3, the White Sox fulfilled their top priority on Dec. 8 in Orlando, Fla.

Konerko, 35, agreed to return to the team he has played with since 1999 and signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal to remain with the White Sox.

Both Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski deferred money to the back end of their new contracts to make room for the possibility of the team re-signing its captain.

“Paul Konerko has some good teammates, because one of the things that helped us get this thing done is Adam Dunn coming in and caring more about winning than the last dollar,” Williams said during a press conference in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. during the Winter Meetings on Dec. 8. “He was more accommodating in moving some of his money back to the latter part of his deal.”

Konerko has been one of the most consistent first baseman in Sox history behind Frank Thomas. He hit .312 last season with 39 home runs and 111 RBIs while finishing fifth in MVP voting for the 2010 season.

“To come back was always 1-A as far as what in my mind of what I wanted to happen,” Konerko said during a conference call on Dec. 8. “I was prepared and I had options to do other things.”

There were reports that the Arizona Diamondbacks had strong interest in Konerko because he resides in Scottsdale, Ariz., during the offseason. Konerko said he was intrigued the Diamondbacks were interested in him and it thrilled him when they made contract offers.

“We are just thrilled to have not only the player, but the person,” Williams said during a press conference in Orlando, Fla. “Hopefully we can one day have him retire as a White Sox.”

A lot of Konerko’s teammates from the 2010 season were vocal about the importance of his return in 2011 as the team captain throughout the offseason. Williams said the franchise is happy that Konerko is beloved by his teammates, which went a long way into the dealing with this free-agency period.

After a prolonged career with the White Sox, the possibility of playing elsewhere didn’t get Konerko nervous because he prepared himself and his family one year before.  He said he told his family he may change uniforms or retire if offers weren’t serious enough.

“It’s a yearlong culmination all the way to that point and you have to be prepared and know whatever happens, you’re going to live with it,” Konerko said.

Konerko was in the same position five years ago after the team won the World Series. He was pursued by many teams afterward, most notably the Los Angeles Angels who reportedly offered him a five-year, $65 million contract. Konerko later agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract with the White Sox.

He said this year’s free agency process went much smoother and wasn’t as rushed as it was in 2005. Konerko also acknowledged he didn’t put any pressure on himself to sign with the Sox like he did in 2005 because 12 seasons with the same team was enough time to accomplish a lot of good things.

“It could’ve been the end of the road and I was prepared for that,” Konerko said. “I would’ve felt emptier if I would have left [in 2005].”

The Sox started the 2010 season 9.5 games out of first place by June. They then went on a 25-5 stretch over 30 games to climb to first place by the All-Star break. The team then faded into second place behind the Minnesota Twins in August and missed the playoffs.

Konerko said the team has to be prepared for a seven-month battle in 2011. He said the Sox must be aware that winning the division will come down to better execution on the field and appreciating success,which won’t come easy in 2011.

“You have to start that saga knowing this could come down to one game at the end of the year,” Konerko said. “That gets your attention pretty quick as far as every game of the season you have to be dialed in for seven months. That’s what its going to take to win it, there’s no shortcuts to that.”