I tweeted, blogged and even dragged my writing staff through a prolonged offseason planning session, and none of it stopped the White Sox from their sentimental reunion.
But now it’s happened. If Scott Merkin is to be believed on Conor Gillaspie’s hold on the third base job, that makes the bench as is:
—A rotating DH platoon
—Leury Garcia playing 18,000 positions.
I’d wait until the starting lineup is better than “WORST IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE” to really sweat the bench, but in the mean time: it’s not a great bench. But if you’re going to trade eight months of Alex Rios for salary relief and a super utility man, best to foul up the bench situation so badly that a super-utility man becomes necessary.
This will look a lot better if Konerko, while limited in his use, is actually good at what they have him do. To that end, the White Sox are saying the right things.
“As Robin Ventura and I discussed with him when we met in November, Paul will play an important role on the 2014 team by collecting at-bats as the designated hitter against certain left-handed pitching.”
A better statement might be, “He will be collecting all the designated hitter at-bats against left-handed pitching. He and Adam Dunn will be in a strict platoon that if violated, will result in grave punishment for all involved parties,” but that’s not the kind of statement you want to come out and put on the record in December. Maybe it’s the final thing you whisper to Robin Ventura four minutes before first pitch on Opening Day. But Adam Dunn might not even be around.
But say that he is: Dunn had a .681 OPS against left-handers last season, while Konerko had a .923 OPS, which, if it held, would give him priority to play over almost anyone except Dayan Viciedo, who was arguably even more dominant against lefties before whatever happened to him last season. Again, if you look too deeply into any particular direction, you see a functional reason why having Konerko on the roster is unnecessary, but we’re trying to look past that.
Konerko’s performance against left-handers was a bit of a spike from his previous two seasons, and it’s hard to think back of his 2013 season and think of anything he did this well, but it’s around his career averages, so let’s just plug them in going forward: .299/.377/.538.
Since he is being proposed as a DH, and wonky defensive ratings wouldn’t apply to him, we can actually plug these numbers into Lewie Pollis’ WAR calculator and give a rough assessment of what he would be worth.
In this generous context where Konerko is used only against lefties, does not deteriorate further, and is good for 200 plate appearances, I plugged in last year’s MLB averages (since they were actually higher than the U.S. Celluar averages (thanks, White Sox offense)) and made sure the baserunning was shifted to the lowest possible setting.
In this, pie-in-the-sky scenario, Konerko is worth nearly a win above replacement! It’s not bad for a bench player, and even more valuable than the legendary Ramon Castro 2010 season, and 2.5 wins better than what he was last season. It would be a perfect ride into the sunset, but it would be a sight better than “frozen corpse found in morning” or whatever last season was. Perhaps this is what they are shooting for.
Ultimately it will be in vain for a team that will not compete, and will be 200 plate appearances that could have gone to someone who might be needed for a half-decent 2015 team, but again, that’s not what we’re focusing on now, or for all of 2014.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan