Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf remains optimistic that free-agent first-baseman Paul Konerko will return to the South Side.
“He belongs in Chicago,” Reinsdorf said this morning in an interview with FOXSports.com.
When asked if he believes Konerko will re-sign with the team by the end of this week, Reinsdorf said, “I hope so.”
Konerko has been with the White Sox since 1999, but the team will need to hold off a challenge from the Arizona Diamondbacks in order to keep him. Tracy Ringolsby of FOXSports.com reported today that Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers has had extended talks with Konerko’s agent Craig Landis.
Konerko, 34, lives in the Phoenix area, which could be a key consideration in the negotiations.
For now, Reinsdorf said he hasn’t had much involvement in the negotiations between the White Sox and Landis. “I have too much of a personal relationship with him,” Reinsdorf said of Konerko.
The White Sox have been one of the industry’s most active teams in the last week, luring Adam Dunn to Chicago with a $56 million contract and re-signing catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Reinsdorf said the team’s payroll will be “somewhere around” $110 million.
“It will be our highest ever,” he added.
Yet, if the White Sox re-sign Konerko, they may not have enough money left to make significant bullpen upgrades. Even if Konerko defers money on a new contract, as Dunn and Pierzynski did, it’s hard to imagine him earning much less than $10 million in 2011.
Already, the White Sox have spent just under $95 million on 14 players, according to salary data at Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That figure doesn’t include arbitration raises due to John Danks and Carlos Quentin.
So, at the moment, it doesn’t appear that general manager Kenny Williams will be left with much money for bullpen upgrades. The team trimmed two veteran relievers from the roster in recent days, cutting Bobby Jenks and trading Scott Linebrink.
Reinsdorf was asked if the team will have the resources to sign a big-dollar free-agent closer. His answer was simple: “No.”
Reinsdorf left open the possibility that Jenks would return for less money than he would have earned through salary arbitration.
“I wouldn’t rule that out,” he said. “(Matt) Thornton can close. (Chris) Sale can close. I think (Sergio) Santos can close.
“Maybe Ozzie (Guillen) will go by committee. I don’t know. I don’t have to make that decision. Ozzie makes the decision, and then I criticize it if it’s wrong.”