Sox Drawer: Konerko close to retirement?

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Sox Drawer: Konerko close to retirement?

Every baseball player has his own shelf life in this game. Some know when their time is up. Others stick around long past their prime.

For Paul Konerko, his mind and body will know exactly when it's time to retire, and it might come sooner than you think.

Konerko has two years remaining on his contract, and while he's focused on having another big season for the White Sox, he gave his first hint that 2013 might be his last in a big league uniform.

"No doubt it could be," Konerko said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "Yeah, in all reality I would see it ending after next year or maybe another year. I mean, at some point you got to go home and be around your kids and have other things to do."

At a time when most players see their hitting numbers decline, Konerko has been exactly the opposite. The 13-year veteran has had a career renaissance in his mid-30s, especially in the last two seasons in which he has averaged 35 home runs and 108 RBIs. Can he keep up that pace at age 36 and 37? That's a mystery. Will he continue playing the moment he sees his skills diminish? That isn't.

"There's obviously this year and I have another year left on the contract, and I would not have signed up for that if I didn't think I could pull it off," Konerko said. "But at that point I'll be 38 years old going into the following year. If someone wants me, and I'm willing to do the work it takes through the offseason, and through spring training and through the year, then I would be willing to play.

"But if any of those things don't exist, I would never just play to say, 'Well, this team wants me and I can kind of hang on for another year and kind of go through the motions here,'" Konerko explained. "I have to be doing what I know it takes for me to play. Otherwise, it's not for me. I have to do the crazy amounts of preparation. It has to be there. If I'm not willing to do all the grind, then I've got some other things I'd like to do."

When Konerko does retire, he will be sorely missed. Not just for his play and leadership, but for his keen perspective on the game. Few people see things the way he does. Even fewer can actually articulate them.

Let's start with the lost season of 2011:

"I don't think there was a moment last year from the word go where at anytime did we feel like, 'This is kind of special' or 'This is inspiring baseball.' There's always going to be a couple teams every year that has that happen to them, and unfortunately we were one of them," Konerko said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find four or five days in a row where it felt like things were starting to go. We'd have two or three maybe. That was the most we ever had. It was a grind. It was not what you're looking for."

If the 2011 regular season was bad, the current offseason appears to be worse. The Sox have lost Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin, and have question marks replacing all three of them. Fans and media sense utter doom. What does Konerko think?
"If I was one of the options, then Robin was a heck of a hire!-- Paul Konerko.
"The only time I have won a World Series, the offseason leading up to it was kind of similar to this where there were a lot people not happy with the moves that were made. A lot of people saying, 'What did we do this for?' And then we went out had a great year and won a World Series. I'm not saying that's going to happen again, but I always keep that in the back of my mind. Anytime you think on paper something is supposed to happen the next year."

Many thought the playoffs would happen for the Sox last year. Clearly that didn't happen. They got off to that terrible 11-22 start and finished 16 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. Excitement and attendance nose-dived, leaving the franchise stumbling to get back on its feet. For the fans to return, Konerko knows exactly what the White Sox need to do: Win.

"It's kind of like we're starting fresh. We're really like at zero, and we have to build it back up and earn people's, the fans' trust to come back out and see us. The whole thing," Konerko said. "We're kind of just starting out at square one again, but that doesn't mean that you're conceding anything. I just think it means you're looking to get a fresh change, and just start everything all over again."

That means taking baby steps forward, starting with Opening Day in Texas on April 6. For the White Sox to make it back, Konerko believes it will have to be a slow, methodical climb throughout the season.

"I think for us, I think we should focus more on small goals. We're going to start off playing meaningful games Opening Day and let's just see how long we can be playing meaningful games. Not say that we're going to make the playoffs, not say we're going to do this or that. Let's just see how long we can play the game right, and stay in the mix, and if it gets to September or August, and we're in the mix, then great. Just start off with more smaller thoughts about how we're going to do everything is my opinion."

You wonder why Kenny Williams actually considered making Konerko the White Sox player-manager this season? This is why.

So what did Konerko think when he heard that idea? He chose to take the humorous, sarcastic route.

"I know that when they hired Robin Ventura everybody was like, 'Robin was a great big league player,' and what I'm hearing about his experience is that he coached his son's high school team for a while. That's his experience at managing or coaching. And then it comes out that they were considering hiring me as playermanager. Then you look at Robin and you say, 'That was a great choice,' because if I was one of the options, then Robin was a heck of a hire!"

But would Konerko ever consider managing?

"I'm probably going to be like Robin 10 years ago and say I'll never manage," Konerko said.

And then you'll manage?

"I don't know about that."

What we do know is that Konerko's playing time is running out. Knowing Paul, he's going to make the best of what's left and walk proudly into the sunset.

Few players leave the game just before their expiration date. Konerko seems poised to be one of them.

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

The White Sox agreed to one-year contracts with five players on Friday, including a $12-million deal for Todd Frazier.

Frazier established a franchise record for home runs by a third baseman in 2016 when he blasted 40 in his first season with the White Sox. A free agent after the 2017 season, Frazier hit .225/.302/.464 in 666 plate appearances, drove in a career high 98 runs and produced 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. 

Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is set to earn $5.9 million this season. The team also agreed to deals with relievers Dan Jennings ($1.4 million), Zach Putnam ($1.1175 million) and Jake Petricka ($825,000).

The White Sox acquired Frazier in a three-player trade from the Cincinnati Reds in December 2015. It's expected they would try to trade Frazier, who has hit 104 homers since 2014 and participated in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby three consecutive years, before the Aug 1 non-waiver trade deadline as part of the club's rebuilding efforts. 

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Gonzalez went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) after he was signed to a minor-league deal in early April. 

Jennings posted a 2.08 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. 

Putnam had a 2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts before he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. 

Petricka was limited to nine appearances before his season was ended by hip surgery.

Both Petricka and Putnam are expected to be ready for spring training.

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

It was a limited look, but Yoan Moncada made a strong first impression on the White Sox this week.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox last month in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada arrived in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this week with the franchise hopeful he'd offer a glimpse of the skills that earned him the designation as baseball's top prospect.

Moncada didn't disappoint, either, as he had White Sox evaluators excited throughout a three-day hitters camp. Whether it's his physicality, how he carried himself or his baseball IQ, White Sox staffers couldn't have been happier about their first experience with their new prized possession.

"(Moncada) looks like a linebacker, but he moves like a wide receiver," player development director Chris Getz said. "He's got good actions. He's obviously a switch hitter. He's got power. He can hit. He's got a good smile. He seems to be enjoying himself out here, he interacts well with his teammates.

"So far it has been very impressive, and we look forward to seeing more."

Hitting coach Todd Steverson said Moncada, 21, looked every bit the part when he first observed him from across the hall at the team's facility. Steverson spoke to friends in the scouting community and wasn't the least bit surprised when he encountered the 6-foot-2, 205-pound second baseman. Moncada was just as impressive on the field with his skills and effort, Steverson said.

"This is a large specimen right here," Steverson said. "He's put together pretty well.

"On defense it looks like he has some really good hands.

"He got in the box and he hadn't swung for a while. But still, you could tell he had good hands going through the zone, has a nice approach and wants to work real hard."

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Moncada's fancy tools have been well publicized since he received a $31.5-million signing bonus from the Red Sox in March 2015.

MLB.com graded Moncada's hit tool at 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale while his base running is 65 and arm is 60. Moncada's power received a 55 grade, and his fielding is 50. Moncada received an overall grade of 65, which suggests he has the ability to be a perennial All-Star and worth 4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com.

But the White Sox weren't just impressed with Moncada's physical ability.

One of manager Rick Renteria's top objectives for the camp was to emphasize fundamentals and what's important to the team. Renteria wanted to identify specific game situations and how players are expected to handle them so they're well prepared for the future. Moncada handled that area well, too.

"Yoan is a very knowledgeable baseball player who has experience on a multitude of levels," amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. "In the brief time we had with him this week, he showed a tremendous ability to drive the ball the opposite way as well as drive balls to the gap and out of the ball park from both sides of the plate. That ability will help him handle and any all situations that Ricky asks him to do at the plate. Defensively his hands and feet are very good and will have no problem there. He's a bright hard-working kid that is part of a bright future for the organization."