24: Dunn, A.J. locked up; Konerko unsolved

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24: Dunn, A.J. locked up; Konerko unsolved

Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
5:14 PM
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Its one thing for Chicago White Sox GM Ken Williams to bring in Adam Dunn with a full cannonball splash after laying the weeds for a full two months since a late-season session of hand-wringing over an anticipated thin budget.

Its entirely another to have Dunns four-year, 56 million-dollar deal be just the tip of the iceberg.

But thats just what Williams promised on Friday, as the White Sox welcomed their new lefty slugger to the South Side in a celebratory news conference.

Things are rolling so fast on the South Side that the White Sox couldnt even find time to issue a press release announcing that A.J. Pierzynski had re-signed with the club before the Dunn extravaganza began.

But this day was devoted to Dunn, and the press conference broke out in jovial fashion as manager Ozzie Guillen called, I get to ask the first question, prompting Williams to broker an on-the-fly introduction from the podium, Adam Dunn, meet Ozzie Guillen. Dunn and Williams also both quickly agreed that Dunn looks good in black.

Dunn explained in spite of the White Sox being his first choice in free agency (I wanted to sign right after the season ended), the deal that brought him here happened fairly quickly and adding for me in a humorous allusion to his storied lack of foot speed.

I love the city, my wife loves the city, Dunn said. The team is already proven, and Im joining a team that doesnt just want to win, but win a World Series. This is like an early Christmas gift. Its gonna be a great fit.

Although self-effacing when it comes to his foot speed, Dunn proved himself a dancing bear when it came to wit, complimenting his new managers beret and admitting, Im kind of a loud guy, too, so me and Ozzie will get along. I actually dont have a lot of Ozzie stories or have heard many. I want to make my own.

Where Dunn plays is also a sensitive subject, but one that Dunn pushed aside. The longtime outfielder just switched to first base in 2010, where he proved a patient and eager pupil of teammate Ryan Zimmerman.

Williams admitted he was straight up with Dunn, promising only that he might play first base once or twice a week and if I lose you because of that honesty, so be it. Id want it to be for an honest reason and not lie about his position to him.

That honesty was not lost on Dunn: He's great. You dont meet a lot of people who are straight shooters. Moreover, on the topic, Dunn was succinct and earnest: I dont care where I play. Id catch, but I see A.J. signed, so forget that.

What Dunn is most eager to do what he was brought to the South Side to do is slug.

While Dunns otherworldly power numbers say a lot of things, the new acquisition ascribes it to a couple of simple things. One, being healthy a lot of people have success, but cant stay healthy. Ive never had any major injury.

Natch, Williams made sure to follow that pronouncement with a sound knock on the wooden press conference table.

Consistency with getting on base, the power and driving in big runs, all of that impresses me about Dunn, Williams said. Hes done it consistently for eight years. We need that offensively, period but to get it from the left side is a bonus.

Second, the slugger takes a straightforward and simple approach: Youve still gotta see it and hit it.

False modesty? Perhaps. Dunn had 38 homers and 103 RBI for the Washington Nationals in 2010, with a career-best 36 doubles and a .917 OPS. He also saw action in 158 games, his seventh straight season of 150 or more.

For his career, Dunn has 354 home runs, 880 RBI, 865 runs and a .902 OPS in 1,448 games. He snapped a five-season streak of at least 40 home runs, but those five seasons are something only Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Ralph Kiner, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Duke Snider and Sammy Sosa had previously accomplished.

The 31-year-old has a career isolated power (batting average subtracted from slugging average) of a riotous .271. Bill James projects 39 homers and an .884 OPS for Dunn in 2011, but you can bet your fanny such projections will nudge skyward with the prospect of Dunn treating U.S. Cellular Field as his own personal bandbox.

Still, Dunn honestly had little idea the treat hes in for, playing in the heaven for flyball hitters that is U.S. Cellular Field.

This is actually the first time Ive ever been at this ballpark, Dunn said. When I asked other guys about it, they just start laughing, because this is one of the better hitting parks in all of baseball.

Williams focused on re-signing Konerko

Nearly concurrent with the Dunn announcement came two additional moves, the Pierzynski signing and a trade of beleaguered reliever Scott Linebrink to the Atlanta Braves, a move that is reportedly costing the White Sox no more than half of the pitchers 5.5 million salary.

Such payroll savings are essential for Williams and the White Sox right now, but the GM was positively thrilled that both Dunn and Pierzynski were willing to backload their contracts in order to accommodate a pending offer to Paul Konerko.

Adam moved a little of his first year salary back so we could put a better offer out there for Paul, and AJ did the same thing, he said. Thats really something. These guys want to play here and play together, and when it was suggested that moving some salary could help with that, they were all-in. What else can you ask for but people wanting that badly to play here.

As for Pierzynski, who signed a two-year, 8 million deal that will pay out 6 million of his salary due in 2012, Williams noted that the veteran catcher was in dialogue all day Thursday with assistant GM Rick Hahn. A.J. ultimately said, Whats it gonna take to get something done? and as soon as that, we were done.

Dunns contract calls for 12 million in 2011, 14 million in 2012, and 15 million in both 2013 and 2014.

Thus room remains to add the remaining big gun missing in the prospective 2011 lineup, Konerko, who finished fifth in AL MVP voting this past season.

I would love to play with Paul and dont think anyone on this team wants to enter next season without him, Dunn said. I dont think I need to call him and tell him that.

In an uncanny parallel, the last time Konerko was a free agent and Williams made an aggressive acquisition, it was another lefty slugger, Jim Thome. When informed that in fact Thome made a number of calls to Konerko, begging him to return because it would be so fun to hit in the same lineup and that the lobbying worked, Konerko acknowledging it was a big part of his return to the White Sox, Dunn changed his tune.

That actually worked? he asked. Well then, somebody give me his number, Im calling.

While Dunns fingers do the walking and his redwood legs try to outrun the impending snowfall in Chicago, its been an exhausting, whirlwind 24 hours for Williams but ones he wouldnt trade away for any amount.

Very few people who will spend as much before Christmas, Williams joked. But I love this time of year. Youre optimistic youll be competing toward a championship.

While the Linebrink deal is a clear salary dump, Williams said while the deal was made because I needed to find a couple million dollars, there were no such other deals in the offing: We dont have to get rid of salary unless its a good baseball deal.

Williams noted that he was due to talk with Konerko on Monday down at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, and that a contract extension for Alexei Ramirez was in the offing, but way down the line after all the other junk we have to sort through, not until Spring Training.

On a day when the White Sox could celebrate their biggest true free agent acquisition in years, Williams was giddy, but looking to reload and look for more deals.

When you fire as many bullets as we do, youre going to miss your target sometimes, he said. It doesnt mean youre going to stop shooting.

In the GMs sights: Konerko and some bullpen reinforcements. His chances of hitting his targets next week, considering the roll hes on these days: immaculate.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Hawk rips Lackey, Swarzak traded, Coop misses Q

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Hawk rips Lackey, Swarzak traded, Coop misses Q

After a wild day at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, Chuck Garfien and Dan Hayes discuss John Lackey hitting four White Sox batters and also play Hawk Harrelson's epic on-air rant directed at the Cubs pitcher.

"Jeff the Sox Fan" appears on the podcast and suggests what he thinks Jose Abreu should have done to Lackey when he was hit for a second time.

While they taped the podcast, Anthony Swarzak was traded to the Brewers. What kind of return did the White Sox get? Garfien also interviews White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper about losing Quintana to the Cubs, why he can't watch Quintana and Chris Sale pitch in different uniform, when some minor leaguers like Reynaldo Lopez will be called up and more.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

How White Sox aggressive deadline strategy paid off in Anthony Swarzak trade

How White Sox aggressive deadline strategy paid off in Anthony Swarzak trade

The White Sox jumped out ahead of a crowded reliever market once again and traded Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night.

The White Sox acquired 25-year-old outfielder Ryan Cordell from the Brewers in exchange for the veteran reliever, a baseball source confirmed. The No. 17 prospect in the Brewers farm system, Cordell was hitting .284/.349/.506 with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs in 292 plate appearances at Triple-A Colorado Springs this season.

A nonroster invitee to big league camp this spring, Swarzak was 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA, one save and 52 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings this season. He’s the third reliever the White Sox have traded since the second half began as they also dealt David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees with Todd Frazier on July 18.

TA free agent after the season, Swarzak has fared extremely well in high-leverage situations, stranding 26 of the 35 runners he had inherited. He pitched in two high-leverage spots in the team’s previous two games, earning his first career save Monday. Swarzak, whose 9.68 strikeouts per nine is a career high, also earned a hold on Sunday in Kansas City.

“I’ve been waiting for that opportunity for a long time,” Swarzak said of Monday’s save. “It’s nice that I went in there and got it done. You think about that moment for years and then it finally happens. You just are trying to take a step back and reflect on what just happened, and I’ll be able to come in tomorrow and be ready to go.”

Two American League scouts said Monday that Swarzak still had good trade value even though he’s viewed as a rental. While he wouldn’t likely net the White Sox a top-150 prospect, they could wrangle a “good” minor-leaguer in a deal. One element that could have potentially derailed the White Sox was an abundance of strong relief options in the market, perhaps as many as 20 pitchers.

[MORE: Carlos Rodon frustrated again after a weird start

After the White Sox traded Robertson and Kahnle, general manager Rick Hahn indicated they moved the pair early in anticipation of a competitive marketplace when they acquired Blake Rutherford and others from the New York Yankees. The Baltimore Orioles are a team that could have wreaked havoc on the relief market if they decide to sell -- something one AL source said they’ve gone back and forth on every day -- because they could flood it with Zach Britton and others.

The move is the third made by the White Sox in a span of two weeks, including the trade of Jose Quintana to the Cubs on July 13. The White Sox still have several veterans on the roster who could draw trade interest, including starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez.

“We are still open for business,” Hahn said last week.

Today’s Knuckleball’s Jon Heyman first reported the deal that sent Swarzak to the Brewers. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal initially reported the teams’ were discussing a trade for Swarzak.