Adam Dunn is guaranteed $15 million next season. He needs 64 home runs for 500. And he is only 33 years old.
Yet Dunn, the Chicago White Sox’s designated hitter, says that he will consider retiring this offseason and forfeiting his remaining salary if he no longer is enjoying himself.
“I’m not coming back just to come back for money or because I have one year left (on his contract),” Dunn told FOX Sports on Tuesday. “I’m not coming back to chase home-run numbers or whatever. If I end up with 499 and I’m not having fun, see ya — 499 it is.”
Dunn, who turns 34 on Nov. 9, almost certainly would have a different view if the White Sox were in contention. Instead, he called the team’s season “a great letdown.”
The White Sox, after going 85-77 and finishing a surprising second in the American League Central last season, entered Tuesday night’s play with a 56-80 record, the second-worst in the American League.
The trades of right-hander Jake Peavy, outfielder Alex Rios and relievers Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain have left the club’s roster considerably younger. The return of first baseman Paul Konerko, a potential free agent, also is uncertain, though Dunn said on a national radio show recently that there was “zero chance” that Konerko would retire.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who played 16 years in the majors, said that Dunn has spoken to him about his frustration. But Ventura added: “I don’t see him not playing (next season). I’ve heard a lot of guys say that, and they still play.
“It’s tough. For (veterans) like that, it’s hard to go through. You’re frustrated. Sometimes, it’s you. Sometimes, it’s the way the team is playing. But it doesn’t guarantee anything for next season. He has been around long enough to know next year could be different. It can be better than it is right now.
“He’s coming back,” Ventura added, smiling. “He doesn’t have a choice.”
Dunn, however, said that he will talk to Ventura during the offseason.
“If it’s looking like it’s going to be one of those ‘Oh boy’ kind of years, that’s going to determine a lot,” Dunn said.
Dunn emphasized that he was not blaming anyone with the White Sox, adding that he, too, bears responsibility for the team’s poor performance; he entered Tuesday night batting .228 with a .785 OPS, 30 homers and 79 RBI.
Dunn also said that he does not want to be traded this offseason, saying, “I’m not a demand-trade dude.” The way he sees it, he wants to remain with the White Sox as long as they want him.
When will he decide about playing next season?
“I’ll start working out (during the offseason), start hitting,” Dunn said. “It’ll be the same. I’m presuming that I’m going to dread starting. Then, once you get into it, (you realize) it is fun again. I remember that. Then I’ll go to spring training and go from there. If I’m not having fun, if it’s not a normal-feeling baseball season, then I’m out.
“That might be February. That might be 10 years from now.”
This is Dunn’s 13th season. He has yet to play in the postseason. Like many with the White Sox, he thought this year’s club stood a decent chance of competing for at least a wild card. Instead, the Sox are last in the AL Central, 24 games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers.
“Winning is everything, especially now,” Dunn said. “That’s why it’s so tough. The expectations that not only I had, but we had as a team, were really high. For this to happen, I don’t like the word, ‘devastating,’ but it’s probably tougher to handle than most.”
How difficult is it for him now that the White Sox are younger?
“I look at it two ways, actually,” Dunn said. “One, it’s a young team. But two, I feel a role that I can (fill). When I was coming up (with the Cincinnati Reds), looking at Lark (Barry Larkin), Sean Casey, (Ken Griffey) Junior, Aaron Boone, those guys helped me a lot not just with baseball per se, but little life stuff, little things. That part I really, really have enjoyed. I feel like a lot of the young guys have embraced me in that role, which is cool.
“The tough part is, it’s a young team. We make a lot of young mistakes. That part of it obviously is tough to watch, but it’s also tough for Robin (and the coaches). You can teach it all you want. When you don’t have the experience, the instincts yet, things like that happen. . . . Anything you can do (wrong) on the basepaths, we’ve done.”
OK, but would Dunn actually walk away? He acknowledged that he still enjoys the competition, the hitter-pitcher confrontations. His own manager doubts he will retire. Others will, too.
“Then they don’t know me,” Dunn said. “I don’t know how else to put it. I promise you right now, if you talk to my buddies in here, talk to Chris Sale, talk to John Danks, whoever, and ask them that question. Ask Sean Casey. Ask Aaron Boone. Ask guys who have known me forever that I consider really good friends.
“If I’m not having fun, I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I can’t. I’ll be a miserable person. I don’t want to be like that. I want to be like I am a lot. Happy.