Paul Konerko was vacationing in Mexico last week, sitting on a chair looking at the ocean, when he received a text message that Adam Dunn had agreed to a deal with the Chicago White Sox.
“My first thought was, ‘OK, well, that was a fun 12 years. That was it. It was a him-or-me situation,”’ Konerko recalled.
Then Konerko remembered that White Sox general manager Kenny Williams had told him the team would make a big push to win in 2011.
“Maybe they’re actually going to make a push to get both of us,” Konerko thought to himself later.
That’s what happened. The White Sox retained their team captain Wednesday, agreeing to a $37.5 million, three-year contract with the four-time All-Star first baseman.
On Tuesday, Williams had said he was moving onto Plan B. But assistant general manager Rick Hahn then made progress on a deal with Konerko’s agent, Craig Landis, over sushi. Negotiations were completed by e-mail.
“He might have gotten a little bit more because Rick and I started to tip a few back after a while,” Williams said.
If Konerko stays with the White Sox until the end of the deal, he will have spent 15 years with Chicago.
“That’s a pretty nice round number,” he said.
He gets $12 million in each of the next two seasons and $13.5 million in 2013 under Wednesday’s agreement. In the final year, $7 million will be deferred and paid annually in $1 million installments from 2014-20.
Chicago has spent this offseason after finishing second in Minnesota in the AL Central at 88-74. In addition to Dunn’s $56 million, four-year contract, catcher A.J. Pierzynski stayed for an $8 million, two-year deal.
“We certainly, I think, are at a point where we have got to get a little creative, because we are about tapped out right now,” Williams said. “So we need to either get creative or we need to get a flood at the ticket counter pretty quickly.”
White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said that while individual tickets aren’t on sale, season ticketholders responded positively.
“Phones are ringing off the hook to the point that the sales department canceled its holiday party tonight to stay late and field all of the calls,” he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
The 34-year-old Konerko was fifth in voting for AL MVP this year after hitting .312 with 39 homers and 111 RBIs. Konerko was acquired from Cincinnati after the 1998 season and helped the White Sox win the 2005 World Series. He ranks second to Frank Thomas in team history with 358 career home runs, 1,127 RBI and 701 extra-base hits.
Konerko also had been sought by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team from the area he lives in.
“It definitely was a possibility and definitely something that was intriguing to me,” Konerko said. “I think they’re on their way up.”