Paul Konerko re-signing with the White Sox seemed like a near-lock as recently as yesterday, but general manager Ken Williams told reporters this afternoon that contract talks have hit a major snag and may force the team to look elsewhere for a first baseman.
Williams revealed plans to speak to agents for several other first base options, saying “at this point we have no choice” and “you can’t stop the train.”
Previous reports suggested that Konerko was asking for $15 million per season, while the White Sox were hoping to sign him for closer to the $12 million he earned in 2010 and use the money saved on bullpen help.
Arizona and Baltimore have expressed interest in Konerko, but the assumption has been that he’d give Chicago the right to match any offer he receives.
UPDATE: Rosenthal reports that Putz will receive a two-year, $10 million contract from the Diamondbacks with a $6.5 million club option for 2013 or a $1.5 million buyout. He’ll earn $4 million in 2011 and $4.5 million in 2012.
6:18 PM: According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Diamondbacks and J.J. Putz have agreed to a two-year contract with a club option for 2013, pending a physical.
3:48 PM: Moments ago during the press conference officially announcing the Mark Reynolds deal, Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers indicated that he expects to acquire a new closer by tomorrow.
And about three seconds later Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweeted that “good progress is being made by the Diamondbacks to bring J.J. Putz in.”
Connecting the dots, Putz to the Diamondbacks as their new closer definitely passes the smell test.
Putz bounced back in a big way this year after struggling with his performance and health for the Mets in 2009, going 7-5 with a 2.83 ERA, .204 opponents’ batting average, and 65 strikeouts in 54 innings for the White Sox. It was the fourth time in five seasons that Putz has racked up more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings, and if you ignore his one-season stint in New York he has a 3.03 career ERA in 377 innings.
Towers was famous for building excellent bullpens during his time in San Diego and he’s already taken steps to fix Arizona’s league-worst relief corps by adding David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio in the Reynolds deal. Bringing in Putz to handle ninth-inning duties would be a huge addition, as he’s been one of baseball’s most dominant relievers when healthy.
Prior to trading Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox the Padres were said to be fielding offers from several other teams, and now Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the White Sox finished runner-up with their offer.
According to Nightengale they were willing to trade “Gordon Beckham and prospects” for Gonzalez, but the Padres preferred the Red Sox’s all-prospect offer featuring Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes.
It’s tough to really judge Chicago’s offer without knowing the “and prospects” part, but it’s interesting just to note that the White Sox are willing to deal Beckham after previously making him semi-untouchable in blockbuster talks. His disappointing season no doubt caused his stock to decline in everyone’s eyes, but he’s still a 24-year-old former No. 8 overall pick who seemingly everyone was in love with this time last year.
So far he’s hit .260 with a .331 on-base percentage and .416 slugging percentage in 234 career games.
No doubt looking to shed some salary after signing Adam Dunn and re-signing A.J. Pierzynski yesterday, the White Sox have traded veteran reliever Scott Linebrink to the Braves for mid-level pitching prospect Kyle Cofield.
Chicago will reportedly send some cash to Atlanta to cover part of the one season and $5.5 million left on Linebrink’s four-year, $19 million deal and he’ll slot into the Braves’ bullpen as a setup man.
He posted a strong 147/48 K/BB ratio in three seasons in Chicago, including a 52/17 mark in 57 innings this year, but Linebrink struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark while serving up 28 homers in 160 innings and had ERAs of 4.40, 4.66, and 3.69.
Moving from the AL to the NL and from Chicago’s power-boosting ballpark to Atlanta’s pitcher-friendly home will definitely help hide Linebrink’s long-ball weaknesses, and he should be a solid (if overpaid) seventh-inning setup man.
In exchange for Linebrink the White Sox get some payroll flexibility and minor leaguer Kyle Cofield, a 2005 eighth-round pick whom Baseball America ranked as the 24th-best prospect in the Braves’ farm system. A ground-ball pitcher with poor strikeout and K/BB numbers, he currently projects as a potential middle reliever down the road.
UPDATE: As expected, the White Sox have non-tendered Jenks.
Throughout the past year or so there’s been speculation about the White Sox non-tendering closer Bobby Jenks this offseason. He made $7.5 million in 2010 and would be in line for a raise through the arbitration process, and his performance has deteriorated to the point that he’s simply no longer an elite reliever.
In addition to his save total dropping in four straight seasons Jenks’ opponents’ batting average and walk rate have also risen in all four of those years and he has a 4.08 ERA in the past two seasons. He’s still a good reliever, but he’s no longer a great one and certainly isn’t valuable enough to be worth the $9 million or so he’d be due via arbitration.
All of which is why it’s no surprise that Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com reports that the White Sox “are prepared to sever ties” with Jenks at tonight’s non-tender deadline. Padilla notes that Jenks’ increasingly poor relationship with manager Ozzie Guillen has also played a part in the decision, but it would be a no-brainer move for the White Sox based strictly on his performance.
Chicago would likely plug Matt Thornton into the closer role if they indeed non-tender Jenks, although Chris Sale could also get a shot at ninth-inning duties if he’s not moved to the rotation full time.