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posted: 10/18/2013 9:37 PM

With Abreu on tap, will Sox bring back Konerko?

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  • Cuba's first baseman Jose Abreu celebrates after he hits a grand slam in the fifth inning of their World Baseball Classic first round game against China in Fukuoka, Japan, Monday, March 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

      Cuba's first baseman Jose Abreu celebrates after he hits a grand slam in the fifth inning of their World Baseball Classic first round game against China in Fukuoka, Japan, Monday, March 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

 
 

For the first time in five months -- when they scratched their way back to the .500 mark before going into an extended freefall the rest of the season -- there is a positive buzz around the White Sox.

Pending a physical and tying up some other loose ends -- which could take a week or so according to a source -- slugging first baseman Jose Abreu is going to join the Sox after signing a six-year, $68 million contract.

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The former Cuban star has big power and is instantly going to become the focal point of a White Sox offense that was one of baseball's worst this season.

But Abreu's impending addition does trigger a potential buzz kill.

While he hasn't made a decision on his future yet, Paul Konerko strongly hinted he would like to play one more year with the Sox before slipping into retirement.

"At this point, I don't know whether I'm going to do it," Konerko said on the final day of the season when asked about calling it quits. "I feel probably like most of you people that have been around here and everybody I've talked to that this just doesn't seem right, the way this has gone down, so that lends itself to playing. But I also don't know about the team and all that kind of stuff, so you still have to throw that in and say that's a possibility, that even if I want to (play in 2014), they don't want it."

There are only 25 spots a major-league roster, and the White Sox typically carry 12 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders, a designated hitter and four outfielders.

The past three seasons, Konerko and Adam Dunn have split time nearly equally between first base and DH. Abreu is also limited to the two positions, so that currently leaves three players for two spots.

Or does it?

There is little doubt Konerko is past his prime, and he batted .244 this season while posting career lows in home runs (12) and RBI (54). A sore lower back put the Sox' longtime captain on the disabled list from June 25-July 21, so health is also an issue.

While they have multiple reasons to cut ties, the White Sox -- likely chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, executive VP Kenny Williams and general manager Rick Hahn -- are still going to meet face-to-face with Konerko next month in Arizona to discuss future options.

If the White Sox want to keep Konerko for another year and let him go out on a more fitting note, the obvious move is trading Dunn, who led the club with 34 homers and 86 RBI this season. On the flip side, Dunn batted .219 and struck out 189 times.

He is owed $15 million in 2014, the final year of his contract, so dealing Dunn looks to be impossible unless the Sox break from their usual business plan and eat a large chunk of the salary.

Thanks to versatile infielders Leury Garcia and Marcus Semien, there might be a way to keep Abreu, Dunn and Konerko, if that is indeed the White ASox' plan.

Typically, the Sox carry two utility infielders. On this season's opening-day roster, Conor Gillaspie was the backup at third base and first, and Angel Sanchez was the backup at second base and shortstop.

Garcia, acquired from the Rangers in the Alex Rios trade, can play second base, short, third and even center field. Semien, who accelerated through the minor-league system this year before joining the White Sox in September, can play second base, short and third.

Assuming they are not traded, shortstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham (when healthy) like to play every day.

So as it stands now, the Sox' seven infielders/DHs for 2014 could be Abreu, Dunn, Konerko, Beckham, Ramirez, Jeff Keppinger and either Garcia or Semien.

That could mean Garcia or Semien fill the utility job and backup up Keppinger at third base, Ramirez at shortstop and Beckham at second, with Abreu playing daily and Konerko and Dunn splitting time.

Stay tuned.

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