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White Sox Thu Dec 02 2010

White Sox: Like It or Not, Kenny Gets His Man

SoxLogoSmall.jpegThere were those of us that feared the White Sox off-season would be mired in stalemates and non-happenings. There were also those among us that feared the Sox would enter 2011 without a legitimate power hitter, thus revisiting the sins of the past season. We all know Kenny Williams is a man that gets the players he wants, regardless if that player is still relevant. Adam Dunn was a name that was tossed around a lot amongst Sox bloggers during the trade deadline last summer, and now his visage is being Photoshopped with a White Sox uniform on websites across the city. Like it or not, it looks like Kenny got his guy. And that guy is a Southsider until the next Midterm election.

Pending a physical, Adam Dunn is expected to be announced a White Sock Friday afternoon (2 p.m. in a press conference that will no doubt be watched by hundreds) in a relative blockbuster deal -- $56 million over four years. The Sox nabbed a guy that can fill the hole left by Jim Thome after they failed to resign the affable slugger at the end of the 2009 season -- a lefty power hitter who can be relied on for about 40 homers or so a season. But how does this acquisition affect the White Sox 2011 outlook?

The biggest and most nagging question is how this will effect the captain. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wants Paul Konerko back. So while the dawn of the Dunn era might be the official swan song of the 2005 World Series team, especially with the (possible?) farewells of A.J Pierzynski and Bobby Jenks (more on that in a bit) letting go of the hard hitting, slow running morale-booster that is Paw-lee seems to be the biggest pill to swallow for the time being. Dunn will hopefully bring a lot of fireworks to the Cell over next four seasons, but his price tag might keep away the man who used to light up the same sky.

[Edit: Pierzynski is returning to the fold, too.]

The Dunn contract is a weighty one. At $14 million a season, the Sox are already eating up a lot of the precious budget they had left. If Paul Konerko had the season of a mere mortal in 2010, he would be easier to wedge into this picture. As it stands though, Paulie in fact carried the team offensively for most the season, and did so especially when the rest of the good guys decided not to show up during those notable slumps that bookended the oddly streaky summer. Given that, Number 14 is entitled to his fair chunk of change over the next couple of years.

I personally believe that Konerko will return and the duo will bring a hefty amount of RBIs to the table next for at least a season or two. But in the off chance that Dunn becomes the new source of power, what can we expect?

On the one hand, Dunn isn't that much younger than Konerko. This is an important stat to consider when realizing the weight of his contract. When it has expired, "Big Donkey" (really?) will be 35 years old and $56 mil richer. Given that Dunn is entering the twilight years of a ballplayer, the realists among us need to consider where his numbers will be as he reaches the end of the road with this team. He is currently a fine power hitter, with 38 home runs in each of his last two seasons, but his batting average (.260 and .267) over the same two summers belie someone raking in the kind of dough Kenny Williams has just tossed his way. As someone who also considers the National League to still be woefully inferior (despite the last WS win), there will also be the concern of how he will adjust to the real big leagues. Should Dunn become Paulie's replacement, there will be a lot of pressure to out perform his previous seasons. The White Sox are a serious annual contender in a competitive division. This isn't the N.L Central or the Washington Nationals.  But should the two get to work together, well ...

Kenny Williams will look like a genius if he can retain Konerko and both he and Dunn both bring the ruckus next year. Fans of powerful baseball offense would do well to remember Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz when looking at what Paul and Adam would bring to the picture on their best days. This plan, at its best, will bring the Sox back to where the weren't at the the end of the 2010 season -- at the top of the AL Central. A consistent DH and a strong 3-4 in the lineup can carry a team a lot farther than a committee can.

While the Sox may remain a veteran team for yet another season (especially now that unconfirmed reports have A.J. Pierzynski at $8 million over the next two years), they have an opportunity to come back with a much stronger offense than they did last year. For now, all eyes are on Dunn.

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