CHICAGO - JUNE 12: First Baseman Paul Konerko #14 of the Chicago White Sox hits a single off of pitcher Al Leiter #22 of the New York Mets during the MLB game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois on June 12, 2002. The White Sox defeated the Mets 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
For the past fifteen years, Paul Konerko has been the one consistency for the Chicago White Sox. During that time, he’s hit .283 with 424 home runs. He’s also been selected to six All-Star games. But now his future with the team may be in jeopardy.
While a trade looks unlikely, Sox fans have learned over the years than nothing is certain when it comes to Kenny Williams. Konerko has cleared waivers and is eligible to be traded to a contender as long as he is willing to accept the trade. Konerko has ten-and-five rights (ten years in the majors, and five consecutive years with a team). This allows him to veto any deal he chooses.
If the right deal comes along and Konerko clears it, he would be the third former All-Star shipped out of Chicago this season, joining Alex Ríos and Jake Peavy. One thing’s for sure: the 37-year-old doesn’t fit with Chicago’s youth movement.
Potential trade suitors for the veteran first baseman include the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, and Cleveland Indians.
Overshadowed by the breakout of Chris Davis is the fact that the Orioles are suffering from abysmal production at DH. Konerko could provide the boost the Orioles need to land in one of the two Wild Card spots.
Likewise, the Rangers could also use an upgrade at DH. This would also reunite Konerko with former teammates Alex Ríos and A.J. Pierzynski.
With an outside shot at the AL Central title, the Indians have had very little lineup consistency this season. They recently let go of Mark Reynolds, and plan B involves 42-year-old Jason Giambi. Whether the Sox are willing to help out division rival is the question.
If Konerko is still a member of the White Sox when the waiver deadline comes on August 31st, a few questions will still remain. His contract is up after this season, and the Sox will have a lot of payroll room available. The general belief is that he will retire as a member of the White Sox, the team he has given so much over the years. But it’s not impossible that he moves on to another team much like former Sox great Frank Thomas, who finished his career bouncing between Oakland and Toronto. And you can never rule out a return to the Sox on a one-year deal.
I suspect Konerko won’t be away from the game for long, once he decides to hang them up. Two years ago, Kenny Williams admitted that he considered Konerko as a candidate for the managerial position. With Robin Ventura’s success (or lack thereof), perhaps Konerko’s future is from the sidelines as a coach. He’s certainly qualified. He has held the position of Team Captain since 2005, following Chicago’s World Series victory over the Houston Astros.
If this is indeed the end of the Konerko era, he will surely be missed. For fifteen years, he’s stuck with the Chicago White Sox through the highs and lows. That type of loyalty is hard to come by these days. Chicago owes him the option to leave on his own terms.