With Paul Konerko and Jose Abreu in the mix, Adam Dunn will almost certainly see less playing time with the White Sox in 2014.
Abreu was signed last month as the team’s long-term option at first base and Konerko rejoined the club on Wednesday, albeit as a part-time player.
Konerko, who signed a one-year deal, is mostly expected to start at designated hitter against “certain left-handed pitching,” per general manager Rick Hahn. Hahn has emphasized a big part of Konerko’s role would extend to his leadership in the clubhouse. Even so, Dunn is unlikely to match the 607 plate appearances he received last season.
“Dunner is going to be expected to deliver a high level of offensive performance, primarily against right-handed pitching,” Hahn said. “He might get fewer chances against lefties due to Paul’s presence, but that’s something we’ve been discussing internally over the past several months and Adam’s aware of. If anything, perhaps a day off here or there is going to help Dunner. Having most of his at-bats come out of the DH role is going to help him remain strong, and the matchup should be favorable when he’s out there.”
Dunn, who turned 34 last month, has fared much better in his career against right-handed pitchers.
Of his 440 home runs, 324 have come against right-handed pitchers. He also carries a career .246/.378/.518 line against righties as opposed to a .220/.338/.441 line against left-handed pitching. Last season, Dunn had a .786 OPS against righties compared to .681 versus lefties.
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Konerko has a .915 career OPS against left-handers and a .824 against righties. Last season, Konerko had a .923 OPS against lefties while he only had a .600 OPS versus right-handers.
Manager Robin Ventura said he’d consider a number of factors when dividing up the playing time.
“Matchups will have a little bit to do with it,” Ventura said. “Physical stuff guys go through during the year is natural. It’s not going to be set in stone that these guys are playing on certain days. There’s a bit of mixing and matching going on. The individuals I’m dealing with and how professional they are, I don’t sit and bang my head on.”
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Headed into the final season of a four-year, $56-million deal, Dunn is set to earn $15 million. Though one baseball source said late Wednesday the slugger’s name hasn’t surfaced in recent chatter, Dunn’s salary would seem to make it difficult for the White Sox to complete a trade.
Were they to trade him, the White Sox would likely have to eat a hefty chunk of Dunn’s salary and then they’d still need to replace his left-handed bat to keep their lineup balanced.
The lack of trade talk involving Dunn could indicate the White Sox plan to keep him for now, as they have stated publicly. During Wednesday’s conference call, Hahn said the club had believed for the past week an accord with Konerko was close.
If Dunn stays, it’s up to Ventura and his staff to remain creative to get their most-proven power hitter more at-bats. Asked if left field is a possibility, Ventura said he wouldn’t entirely rule it out.
“We’ve used him a few times in interleague play when we had to,” Ventura said. “I’m not saying that there’s no way that can happen. Again a guy comes in and he’s been out there before. It’s not like it’s out of the question for him.”