Captain Konerko returns to the fold

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Captain Konerko returns to the fold

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted 9:54 AM Updated 3:53 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. - Even downspirited Tuesday after a long day of talking loud and saying nothing, Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams was clear with one goal: "I want the man back."

'The man' in question was 12-year Pale Hose first sacker Paul Konerko, and indeed the fan favorite did end up coming back, inking a three-year, 37.5 million dollar deal that will stretch his storied White Sox tenure to 15 seasons.

"When I talk about Paul Konerko, I first have to talk about the first-class person that he is," a beaming Williams said from the main podium at the Winter Meetings. "Believe me, that factors into our equation. It's one of the things that Craig Landis, his agent and representative, and I talk about all the time, the type of person this guy is, not just on the field but in the clubhouse, on the team bus and the hotel."

"Definitely, to come back was always first in my mind," Konerko said. "Having said that, I began a yearlong preparation for the fact that it might not happen that way. It was my goal at the end of the last contract to come back and get 10 years-plus with one team, and I thought that was really cool - not to mention having a chance to win while you're doing it. Now to sit here and say it's going to be 15, that's a nice round number."

It wasn't always looking like Konerko would stay in Chicago long enough to see 15 on the South Side.

"We were very, very close to going in a different direction, and I'm sure they were, as well," Williams said. "We had a consistent dialogue throughout the meetings, but I wouldn't say things really started to come together until after I left our press conference at 5 p.m. yesterday - and things just finished up over dinner.

"But Craig probably should have waited a little longer. He might have gotten a little bit more money because assistant GM Rick Hahn and I started to tip a few back after a while," Williams continued, laughing.

On the other hand, Konerko was openly courted by several teams, including his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks.

"Arizona definitely was a possibility, something that was intriguing to me," Konerko admitted. "It was a great option to have, but it didn't work out going that way. But I was thrilled that they were interested in me."

We knew of Arizona's interest," Williams said. "When you hit .300 and 39 home runs and drive in how many, I would anticipate there is going to be some interest in you. And if that were ultimately his choice and he decided to stay home, and took even less money to stay home, I would not have begrudged him one bit. I would be saying the same positive things about who he is and what he's all about that I am today."

Konerko hadn't intended on stretching the Chisox over a barrel, but the strange nature of his second shot at a significant free agent contract caught him off-guard.

"This whole free agent process was a lot different than the last time I went through this," he said. "Last time 2005, we were in contact with the White Sox from early November, and other teams as well. This time, in the last four or five days, that's where everything came in. It became more of a mad rush. It heated up much later but much faster, and it's one of those things that if yesterday was a bad day as far as the White Sox were concerned, I'm probably not wearing the uniform this season."

Konerko recounted being on a beach in Mexico last week and getting word that the White Sox had signed slugger Adam Dunn and immediately thinking, "OK, that was a fun 12 years. It's either me or him."

But GM Ken Williams had stated consistently over the past two months that getting Konerko back on the South Side was his top priority, something that wasn't lost on Konerko.

"I remembered Kenny telling me at the end of the year, "If we go after this next year, we want to win it. I don't want you or Adam. I want both of you.'"

Williams not only bagged both big sticks, but at a nice price, 26 million next season and up from there. Konerko gets 12 million in both 2011 and 2012, 6.5 million in 2013, and 1 million per season after that, until 2020.

Despite buzzing after a flurry of activity in the space of a week - the rush of the Dunn signing, A.J Pierzynski's quick, accommodating re-up, and Konerko's return - Williams was not altogether surprised at how perfectly the Winter Meetings concluded for his team.

In spite of his weary eyes and clearly a desperate need for sleep, Williams will immediately tackle what little is left on the board for his club in terms of personnel, as well as the elephant in the room - the prohibitive pricetag of the franchise's biggest payroll of all time.

"Next on the agenda is figuring out a way to pay for all of this," Williams said, laughing. "We certainly ramped it up here recently and have been very aggressive. We've got some work cut out for us, and we are at a point where we have to get a little creative, because we are about tapped out right now. So we either need to get creative or we need to get a flood at the ticket counter pretty quickly."

Those are concerns for the pencil-pushers, true. For now, and once again: In the end, Williams has succeeded in turning his dreams into action: "You set your sights on your targets and what you want to do, develop your plans, and go full steam ahead toward them."

And part of those plans, for another three years, is the White Sox's folk hero of a first baseman.

"We are just thrilled to have not only the player, but the person," Williams said. "Hopefully, we can one day have him retire as a White Sox."
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

At one point, it was looking like Lucas Giolito could be headed to the White Sox in exchange for Chris Sale.

But when Sale was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, Giolito's name was in the clear of rumors — until 29 hours later, when the Nationals' top prospect would be headed to Chicago in a different trade, which sent outfielder Adam Eaton to Washington.

“It’s kind of like the world we live in now. Social media is always out there and everything is on Twitter,” Giolito said in a conference call Friday. “I saw my name being mentioned on Twitter for Chris Sale. I know with the winter meetings all sorts of stuff being thrown around. I was just trying to focus on what I’m doing in this offseason which is lifting and all my workouts. Kind of just whatever happens, happens. 

“It’s funny that Sale ended up going to the Red Sox and something else happens that I’m going to the White Sox now with a couple teammates. It’s really interesting stuff but I’m super excited.”

The move for Rick Hahn & Co. to acquire Giolito was the second major trade to begin the White Sox rebuilding process. But Giolito didn't come alone.

In addition, the White Sox received Reynaldo Lopez — who Giolito has played with since 2014 — and the Nationals' 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning.

"I definitely think it’s amazing to be coming over to the White Sox with a bunch of young talent," Giolito said. "I think it’s a great opportunity for us to all develop and get better and hopefully put a really good team together in Chicago. Definitely excited to be coming over with a couple guys from my previous organization."

[MORE: Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right]

Giolito went 6-5 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP across three minor-league levels this past season. He admitted his mechanics weren't quite in sync and is looking to improve on that.

"Sometimes things get out of whack. I believe I let too much get out of whack last year," Giolito said. "So this year with my training program I have in this offseason — lifting and Pilates and everything — I’m just trying to make sure that I can stay as athletic as possible so I’m able to repeat the right delivery more often. Once I start playing catch and doing bullpens and everything these next few weeks, right before spring training, I’m going to make sure I put that all together so I can repeat my delivery as best as possible."

His struggles continued when he got to The Show.

In his major-league debut on June 28, Giolito held the New York Mets to just one hit over four scoreless innings before a rain delay cut his night short. That turned out to be his most effective outing of the season as he finished the year with an 0-1 record, 6.75 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in six games with the Nationals, four of them being starts.

"(My MLB debut) didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked it to go, obviously, as you look at the numbers and everything," he said, "but I feel that with the White Sox now (and) getting traded and everything, it’s kind of like a fresh opportunity and a new start to get up to the big leagues again and contribute and do everything I can to stay there as well."

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Despite his low numbers, the 22-year-old Giolito believes he's ready to play on the White Sox main roster as soon as next season.

"I’ve had some experience in the big leagues last year," Giolito said. "Especially last year, I took a lot positives away because I did experience such a good amount of failure in a lot of I’d say like hardship when I made it up and didn’t perform up to what I believe is my best capabilities.

"I’ve pitched a good amount of innings in the minor leagues and I’ve had a little experience in the big leagues so I’m just really looking forward to making it up in the big leagues with the White Sox and contributing as soon as possible."

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

That Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada have reunited is a nice story, but it won't dramatically change the mindset of the rebuilding White Sox, who earlier this week demonstrated they aren't messing around.

Abreu said in a statement issued by the White Sox on Friday that he's "very happy" about the prospect of again playing alongside Moncada, who played 12 games with the star slugger in 2012 for Cienfuegos in the Cuban National Series. Moncada, 21, is the centerpiece of a four-player package acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Chris Sale on Tuesday, a toolsy infielder who MLB.com has rated as the No. 1 prospect in baseball.

While the concept of Abreu mentoring Moncada has plenty of merit — the first baseman's work ethic is outstanding, and he's beloved by coaches and teammates — don't think the White Sox would hesitate to trade him if someone paid the right price. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn just spent four days at the Winter Meetings discussing how a team that just traded away its best pitcher and position player remains open to listening to all offers and is prepared to do what is must to get the franchise healthy again. 

"We're extremely open-minded on ways to continue the process that we started," Hahn said earlier this week, adding that the White Sox "have to make some painful decisions."

The White Sox have grown tired of never having all the pieces — or even more than a few — to fill the holes created by injury, poor performance, etc. They want to be flush with young talent and essentially have said anything that isn't nailed down at Guaranteed Rate Field is available with the exceptions of Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon.

The team wants to cash in on the chips it possesses.

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While they don't have a ton, the few the White Sox have could help expedite a rebuild process as the Sale and Eaton trades have shown. Those deals brought back seven players, including three who played at the big league level last season (Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez). Some of those players potentially would start 2017 in the big leagues, and that possibility increases the internal value of Abreu and starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who is equally revered among teammates and coaches for his dedication and team-first mentality. 

Having those young players see firsthand what it takes to excel in the majors from veteran teammates is invaluable. Abreu, who arrived in the United States from Cuba in late 2013, addressed that point in his statement about Moncada, who signed with Boston in 2015.

"Moncada is a five-tool player," Abreu said. "He really has everything needed to succeed, and I know that with the proper guidance of veteran players and coaches with experience he can become an All-Star caliber player."

"He is going to make a huge impact in the White Sox organization, and both the fans and the team will be thankful.

"I already spoke with him to welcome him to the team. I told him that I'm going to be there for him for everything that he needs on and off the field."

In a conference call Wednesday, Moncada said he's "thrilled" to once again play with Abreu. Whether they will hasn't yet been determined.

When asked about Moncada's 2017 starting point earlier in the week, Hahn said the 21-year still needs to develop. Moncada appeared in eight big league games last season for Boston and struggled with contact, striking out 12 times in 20 plate appearances. But that promotion came after a meteoric rise through Boston's farm system, an aggressive path that included only 45 games played above High-A. Nothing has been announced, but it appears Moncada will receive an invite to big league camp next spring and be seated near Abreu in the clubhouse. 

Still, Hahn sounds like he intends for Moncada to spend much of 2017 refining his approach in the minors. He also has demonstrated he is willing to dig deep and make more painful moves if it betters the team in the long run, all of which means the White Sox wouldn't hesitate to trade Abreu or Quintana if they get what they want.