Maybe the Washington Nationals should have dealt Adam Dunn to the White Sox at the trading deadline last July. At least they would have gotten something for him then. Instead, the Nationals lost him for nothing in free agency.
Sources say the Sox finalized a four-year, $56 million dollar deal with the left-handed slugger on Thursday afternoon. The move is expected to become official Friday, pending a physical.
Dunn hit 38 home runs and drove in 103 runs for the Nationals last season. In a power-hitting paradise like U.S. Cellular Field, there's no reason to believe Dunn can't duplicate or possibly even improve those figures in 2011.
If you're a Sox fan, you have to like this move -- especially after watching Mark Kotsay stink as the team's left-handed middle-of-the-order presence in 2010. The Sox got only 21 home runs COMBINED from all their left-handed hitters last season.
Think Dunn might be able to do something about that? I believe so.
Now, you wonder whether Dunn will be used primarily as a DH or a first baseman. What does this signing mean for free-agent first baseman Paul Konerko? Ideally, the Sox would have Dunn as their DH and bring back Konerko to play first. But does the team have the money and will Konerko want to return?
According to GM Kenny Williams, Konerko is now the Sox top priority in free agency.
"I've made no secrets that we have strong interest in bringing him back,'' Williams told Sun-Times beat writer Joe Cowley. "Not only is there room for it, but it would be the ideal fit from our perspective. The one thing Paul and I talked about at the end of the season is being mindful of each other's process. It's a fine line I have to walk right now where I am respectful of his process, but where we are also putting the best baseball team on the field.''
That comment suggests the Sox do, in fact, have the money to retain Konerko. It's just a matter of whether he is interested in staying in Chicago. Reportedly, Williams has tried to start the conversation with Konerko's agent, Josh Landis, but it looks like Konerko is intent on testing the market.
While Konerko's status is still unclear, it is certain that closer Bobby Jenks will not be back in a Sox uniform in 2011. The club non-tendered Jenks on Thursday, making him a free agent. I don't think the Sox want Jenks back, and I don't think Jenks wants to come back. Translation: He gone.
One guy who is not gone is shortstop Alexei Ramirez. The Sox exercised a club option on him Thursday. He'll make $2.75 million in 2011. That's a bargain considering the offensive and defensive production we saw from Ramirez last season.
Free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski is likely to sign elsewhere. Cowley is reporting that Toronto is interested. If Pierzynski walks, that leaves the Sox with Ramon Castro and Tyler Flowers at the position. After Pierzynski, Miguel Olivo is the best free-agent catcher on the market.
But as Williams said, the top priority right now is Konerko, not Pierzynski or relief pitcher J.J. Putz. Sign Konerko to steady the middle of the lineup, and you still have the remainder of the offseason to address catcher and the bullpen.
As a Sox fan, the bullpen is my biggest concern right now. Cutting ties with the oft-injured Jenks is the right move. I'd like Putz back if the price is right, but I doubt it will be. That leaves Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and Scott Linebrink as the only pitchers sure to be a part of the Sox bullpen in 2011. That's a lot of holes to fill right there.
The winter meetings begin next week. You know Williams isn't going to sit still. It will be interesting to see what other pieces he adds. The first big domino has fallen today with the acquisition of Dunn.