By giving White Sox the chance to match any offer is Paul Konerko limiting free agent interest?

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Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com reported yesterday that Paul Konerko’s “tight bond” with team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf “figures to afford the White Sox one last chance at matching any deal Konerko might have on the table from another team.”

While that’s a unique situation in baseball it’s somewhat similar to “restricted” free agency in the NBA and NFL where teams can match any “offer sheet” signed by a player. Padilla notes that it could upset the White Sox’s fan base if they’re given the opportunity to match any offer and still decide to let Konerko leave, but a bigger question is whether the situation could limit Konerko’s market as a free agent.

Will teams be as enthusiastic about pursuing and courting Konerko if they know any offer they make will simply be taken back to the White Sox? And if Chicago’s offer-matching ability does depress Konerko’s market in any way, then wouldn’t it make sense that the White Sox were behind the information getting to Padilla in the first place?

In other words, is it in the White Sox’s best interests to let the other 29 teams know that they have the final say on any offer to Konerko? Not quite a stay-off-my-turf pronouncement, certainly, but assuming the White Sox are truly interested in re-signing Konerko–and they’ve given every indication that’s true–then it’s clearly better for them the fewer teams are seriously pursuing the 35-year-old first baseman.

Konerko giving the White Sox the chance to match all offers is a very nice gesture from a player who has spent a dozen years in Chicago, but when it comes time to actually negotiate those offers I just wonder if he should be happy the good will towards Reinsdorf and company is now public knowledge.

Mariners claim Kaleb Cowart off waivers from Angels

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The Mariners announced that the club claimed Kaleb Cowart off waivers from the Angels. Interestingly, the Mariners list Cowart as both an outfielder and a right-handed pitcher. Cowart has never pitched professionally, but the Mariners will try him as a two-way player next season, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Cowart was a highly regarded pitcher in high school.

Cowart, 26, has played all over the field, spending most of his time at third base and second base, but also logging a handful of innings at first base, shortstop, and left field.  He hasn’t hit much at all, owning a career .177/.241/.293 triple-slash line across 380 plate appearances in the big leagues. It makes sense to try another angle.

Shohei Ohtani, of course, is helping to popularize the rebirth of the two-way player. In his first year in the majors after having played in Japan for five years, Ohtani won the AL Rookie of the Year Award by posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances along with a 3.31 ERA over 10 starts. Don’t expect Cowart to hit those lofty numbers, but additional versatility could prolong his life in the majors.