CHICAGO (AP) - Adam Dunn wasted no time going to bat for his new team after he finalized his deal with the Chicago White Sox.
He made it clear he hopes Paul Konerko stays put.
“I just know how much he means to the White Sox organization and to the clubhouse and to the city and everything else,” Dunn said. “I know he’s a great person, a great guy. I think he can do just as much on the field as off the field. Hopefully, things will work out. The White Sox and Paul are going to do what’s best for them, but I would love to have him back.”
Bringing in Dunn probably doesn’t hurt their cause.
Dunn and the White Sox finalized his $56 million, four-year contract Friday. Dunn, who batted .260 with 38 homers with 103 RBIs for Washington last season, will earn $12 million next season, $14 million in 2012 and $15 million each in 2013 and 2014.
Besides landing Dunn, the White Sox also announced that free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski is staying put after agreeing to a $8 million, two-year deal that will pay $2 million next season and $6 million the following year.
Pierzynski had even told his mom he was going to another team.
Instead, he and Dunn wound up deferring money toward the back end of their contracts so Chicago could make a stronger pitch for Konerko, if not another big bat.
“He’s done a lot of tremendous things not only for the team but in the community, on and off the field,” Pierzynski said on a conference call. “It would just be unbelievable for me to look up and take the field as a White Sox and not have Paul Konerko on the field with me. It would be something that I can’t even describe because we’ve been together for six years and he’s become a really good friend of mine.”
General manager Ken Williams plans to meet with Konerko’s representatives at the winter meetings on Monday, but he also has to strike a balance. Does he pass on another potential target while waiting on Konerko?
“The difficult part of that is you’re having dialogue with other people,” he said. “At the same time, you’re hopeful that the guy that you want _ and have stated publicly now that you want _ matches up time-wise with their process before the player that’s next on your list gets scooped up by someone else or puts pressure on you to make a decision on a given day. That’s where it’s hairy.”
The White Sox have clearly decided to go for it rather than trim payroll after winning 88 games but finishing six behind Minnesota in the AL Central.
“There will be very few people that spend as much as I have for Christmas,” Williams said.
He said they’re “stretching” the budget and “going a little bit on faith” that the team will perform the way they envision and contend next season.
“You’re either all-in or you’re not,” Williams said. “If you’re not, then send that message to your fans. Be straight and say, ‘I don’t think we’re going to do very much and here’s the plan going forward.’ But if you are in it, stand up and show you are.”
If the White Sox bring back Konerko, Dunn would likely serve as the full-time designated hitter. If not, he could wind up at first base.
Either way, he’ll be a key, left-handed presence in their lineup.
“I’m joining a team that’s already been very successful,” Dunn said. “It’s a great opportunity to not just win, but win a World Series.”
The 31-year-old Dunn has a career batting average of .250, with 354 homers and 880 RBIs in 10 seasons with the Reds, Diamondbacks and Nationals. He is also prolific with strikeouts and had 199 last season, but would potentially put up big offensive numbers in homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.
“Adam contributed much to the Nationals and to the Washington, D.C. community,” general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “He will be missed, but will remain an important figure in the early history of this franchise and will always be a part of the Nationals baseball family.”
The Nationals listened to trade offers for Dunn at the July deadline _ with the White Sox interested _ but decided not to make a deal.
He gives Chicago the left-handed power hitter it’s been missing since Jim Thome was shipped to the Dodgers at the end of the 2009 season. And when the White Sox decided not to reacquire Thome in 2010, he signed with the AL Central rival Twins.
Dunn, Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin and Konerko figure to form a powerful combination in the middle of the White Sox’s order _ assuming Konerko re-signs.
Konerko is coming off one of his best seasons, when he batted .312 with 39 homers and 111 RBIs and finished fifth in the AL MVP balloting.
“If it doesn’t work out with Paulie, we’ll be OK,” Williams said.
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