Adam Dunn. Paul Konerko. Mark Buehrle.
Barring a major payroll increase, the Chicago White Sox can probably afford only two of the three in 2011.
Of the group, Buehrle is the only one currently under the team’s control. He is scheduled to earn $14 million next year, in the final season of his current contract.
Buehrle, 31, is one of the most popular figures in recent White Sox history, and he has a full no-trade clause. If traded, he is guaranteed a $15 million salary for 2012. Each of those factors would make it difficult for general manager Kenny Williams to move the ace left-hander.
And to be clear, there are no indications the White Sox are shopping Buehrle.
But Williams wants desperately to upgrade his lineup with a powerful left-handed bat. He is known to have interest in Dunn. And if Williams signs him to fill that role, then the GM may need to choose between two uncomfortable options – trading Buehrle or letting Konerko sign elsewhere as a free agent.
According to salary data at Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the White Sox have already committed $82.575 million to 13 players for next year. Last year, their payroll was a little north of $100 million.
Add John Danks and Carlos Quentin, both eligible for salary arbitration, and the number jumps to more than $93 million with 10 roster spots to fill.
And it’s likely that both Dunn and Konerko will earn at least $10 million in 2011.
Therefore, it’s virtually impossible for the White Sox to sign both players and maintain their current payroll without dealing away a big contract. And with Jake Peavy recovering from surgery, Buehrle is their most tradable big-money player.
Such a move would be unpopular with South Side fans. Buehrle and Konerko are among the last remaining links to the 2005 World Series championship club. A.J. Pierzynski, the catcher from that team, is also a free agent.
-Jon Paul Morosi