Paul Konerko is approaching his 38th birthday (March 5), he's coming off a season where he produced career lows in home runs (12) and RBI (54), and 17 years of major-league baseball -- the last 15 with the White Sox -- have taken an understandable toll on his back.
But this is the Sox' longtime captain and one of the greatest hitters in franchise history we're talking about, so Konerko has an open invitation to come back in 2014 and play what he said would be one final season.
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Speaking Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field, where the White Sox held a college signing-day ceremony for 13 players in their Amateur City Elite (ACE) program, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Konerko is expected to decide on playing or retirement before baseball's winter meetings open Dec. 9 in Orlando, Fla.
"We are dealing with the face of the franchise for the past 15 years and, whether he plays in 2014 or not, he will always be associated with a very successful era of White Sox baseball," Hahn said. "(Chairman) Jerry (Reinsdorf) publicly made it very clear that because of who Paul is and what he's done for this organization, he's earned the right to make this decision on his terms and that's what we are providing him the opportunity to do."
Two weeks ago, Hahn and manager Robin Ventura met with Konerko in Arizona. Even with new first baseman Jose Abreu and his six-year, $68 million contract on the roster, the Sox could bring back Konerko and have him split time with Adam Dunn.
"It's not really hamstringing us in terms of our planning," Hahn said of waiting on Konerko's decision. "We have a plan obviously if he's back and we have a plan if he's not back. We haven't missed on any opportunities to fill that role if he doesn't fill it himself."
Money shouldn't be an issue for Konerko, who likely was offered a contract laced with incentives. If the first baseman/DH feels he can physically hold up for one more season, he should be back.
"I don't think Paulie wants to play just to be on the bench or on a farewell tour," Hahn said. "That's not him. He's not looking to go to every ballpark and receive a gift or a special send-off from White Sox fans. He would want to play only if he felt he had something left in the tank and something to add to a club."
As for other adds -- namely at catcher, third base and possibly center field -- Reinsdorf, during an appearance on The Score (670-AM) over the weekend, said Hahn and executive vice president Kenny Williams have money to spend.
"They're well below the budgeted number that we can afford to spend this year," Reinsdorf said. "If they have a player that is going to increase the payroll, as long as it fits within the budget, they can do it."