Perhaps it was inevitable that when the White Sox announced that they would be meeting with Paul Konerko after the season to discuss his future, that they would hold a spot for him. All the evidence they needed to decide to sever ties was already laid out plain. The only person who could claim to need more time was Konerko, and even then, there certainly wasn’t as much to occupy his mind during the season as usual.
But as Tuesday revealed, this dynamic is going to continue to be stretched out as long as conceivably possible. As reported by the beats, but let’s pick Colleen Kane at the Trib to throw a link to, Konerko has a spot on the 2014 White Sox roster “if he wants one,” with the expectation that he’ll decide before the Winter Meetings (the actual ones) in a month.
This–keeping a roster spot aside for Konerko into the offseason, just on the chance that he’ll accept it–is more irksome than just having him on the team. Every team has bad players, and their weakness or unexpected decline has to be accounted for and worked around. The White Sox are, if anything, more prepared for Konerko to be vulnerable against right-handed pitching than they were going into 2013.
But the White Sox need a ton of offense, and have the perverse advantage of being able to take it on almost anywhere. That’s why Jose Abreu being plodding, less athletic than his Cuban peers who preceded him and doomed to be a DH wasn’t a red flag, it’s why “he can hit, but can’t play a position and we have no room for him” is totally a profile the Sox can target and exploit in trades. Their production from the 1B/DH was terrible last year, but it’s the easiest place to find substantive, meaningful upgrades that can transform an offense.
Unless it isn’t, because you’re too busy locking in last year’s putrid combination.
It’s not just 1B/DH that gets jammed up this way either. In fact, that’s less likely to be an issue than the Sox having to whether they can search for offense in the form of an outfielder, because it forces hard choices about Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro De Aza that they’re unwilling to make about Konerko because of some need to preserve the culture and leadership dynamic that’s been so fruitful over the last five years. Or holding Marcus Semien in Charlotte, or letting Conor Gillaspie hit waivers, because they need to show appreciation for all that Konerko has done.
There are other ways to show appreciation to a long-time star, and Jerry Reinsdorf should know, since he’s currently employing a few of them, just as Konerko is coldly rational enough to understand why the Sox have to move on.
This is loyalty to a very clear and demonstrable fault.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan