The White Sox may be bracing for life without Paul Konerko, and have plenty of other question marks to address if they hope to reclaim AL Central Division crown in 2011.
A life-long White Sox, Konerko eschewed an offer from the Angels after winning the 2005 World Series to re-up with the ChiSox. However, it sounds like Konerko's time in town could be done, even as Chicago hopes to retain him.
At the end of the season, Konerko said it was possible another team could lure him away from the White Sox even if Chicago makes a better offer, "because of what I'm feeling for myself and everybody involved in that moment," as ChicagoBreakingSports.com recalls.
The hint dropped, everyone caught it.
Fortunately for Chicago, there is no shortage of first-base options on the free-agent market, so they shouldn't have too much trouble replacing Konerko. One of said first-basemans joined the free-agent list Tuesday when the Diamondbacks declined his option -- Adam LaRoche. LaRoche could play very well at The Cell and give the White Sox close to what Konerko would give at significantly less dollars and years.
Meanwhile, the need for a left-handed hitter (LaRoche alert!), closer and catcher also keeps GM Kenny Williams awake at night.
The White Sox have always had interest in Colby Rasmus, who could solve their conundrum of a lefty (and an outfielder to boot, where the ChiSox can add a player) but given he is a young, up-and-coming star with the Cardinals, it will take a pretty penny to excise him -- troubles with Tony La Russa be damned.
More important at this time is the future of Bobby Jenks, as Mark Gonzales of ChicagoBreakingSports.com says "it would be stunning" if the White Sox allowed Jenks to return to the team for his final year of arbitration and pay him $9 million. The Red Sox have their same issue with Jonathan Papelbon, but are expected to retain him. Not so in Chicago, when the team has had frustrations with Jenks in the past.
They could elevate Matt Thornton to closer, if not even push Sergei Santos in the role, but Chicago could also ask J.J. Putz to return to town and entice him with the possibility of winning the closer's job. They could also be players for Rafael Soriano.
Lastly, the White Sox may be ready to see the A.J. Pierzynski (pictured) reign as backstop end. Prospect Tyler Flowers is an option to take over, and the club recently exercised a club option on Raul Castro to be a backup. They will dabble in trades (Mike Napoli?) and free agency (Miguel Olivo, John Buck, Victor Martinez?) to find their next catcher if Flowers is deemed ready.
The White Sox have a chance to make some noise this offseason. They have a good amount of money to spend, a desire to win and a GM that pulls no punches in doing so. Watch this team.
-- Evan Brunell
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