Retiring captains Paul Konerko, Derek Jeter share mutual respect

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To say Paul Konerko respects Derek Jeter would be an understatement.

Konerko talked at length about the New York Yankees captain’s accomplishments before the White Sox and Yankees kicked off a four-game series on Thursday night.

Barring a postseason series, this will be Jeter’s last trip to U.S. Cellular Field, as he announced he would retire after 20 seasons at the end of 2014. Konerko clearly values Jeter’s achievements on the field. The shortstop has won five World Series rings and has 3,356 hits.

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But Konerko places just as much importance on how Jeter handled himself away from the diamond.

“He has had to do deal with the most and done it the best, with the most class, so for me, he’s No. 1 in my book when it comes to all that stuff,” Konerko said. “It’s definitely appreciated by myself and the players in the game. When a guy like that, as good as he is, and has everybody staring at him and looking at him for 20 years, you hope it falls into someone’s lap like his, that he handles it right and does right by it, and he’s never let anybody down. It’s really amazing. He might be the best ever when it comes to that.”

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Jeter has mutual admiration for Konerko, who also plans to retire at the end of 2014. The two have faced off for 16 seasons, and Jeter appreciates how Konerko has performed. Konerko, Jeter and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins are the only current players in the majors to have at least 2,200 hits with the same team.

“I respect his game, how he handles himself,” Jeter said. “He’s had a lot of success in his career and a lot of success against us in his career. You enjoy competing against guys like that. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit throughout the years, and he’s had a wonderful career. I’ve always respected him.”

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.