An argument can be made that the White Sox first baseman was as valuable to the White Sox as Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano and Josh Hamilton, the MVP, were to their respective teams. But moving forward toward the 2011 season, the question surrounding the White Sox captain is whether his value will come through his return or departure from Chicago's South Side.
The White Sox offered salary arbitration to Konerko and right-handed reliever J.J. Putz before Tuesday's 11 p.m. CT deadline. They declined to offer arbitration to catcher A.J. Pierzynski and designated hitter Manny Ramirez.
Konerko, 34, has been classified as a Type A free agent, meaning the White Sox will receive two extra Draft picks in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft if Konerko declines arbitration and signs with another team. Konerko and Putz have one week to decide if they will accept the arbitration offer, with Nov. 30 standing as the deadline.
A first-round pick would go to the White Sox from the Konerko-signing team, as long as that team's pick is not protected in the Top 15. The White Sox also would receive a sandwich pick in between the first and second rounds.
It's unlikely for Konerko to accept this arbitration offer, meaning he would be under the White Sox control for just the next season at an increase from his $12 million salary in 2010. Konerko figures to command a multiyear offer, based on his overall body of work, his leadership skills and his .312 average, 39 home runs and 111 RBIs put up last year, with the White Sox certainly remaining in the picture.
Putz, 33, meanwhile, has Type B classification, meaning the White Sox would receive a supplemental selection between the first and second round if he declines arbitration and signs elsewhere. If Putz accepts arbitration by next Tuesday, the White Sox would have an important bullpen cog back in the fold for 2011 at a cost slightly above the $3 million Putz earned in 2010.
Despite Pierzynski not being offered arbitration as a Type A free agent, Tuesday just might have been an uplifting sign for those pushing for Pierzynski to stay with the White Sox. Victor Martinez, considered the marquee catcher on the open market, agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with the Tigers, taking one more backstop off the market.
Of course, Pierzynski still could draw interest from other teams in need of catchers such as the Rays, Rangers and even the Red Sox, whom Martinez departed. By not offering Pierzynski arbitration, teams won't shy away from Pierzynski because of the possible loss of two Draft picks by signing him.
By Dec. 2, the White Sox have to offer 2011 contracts to players under their control. Bobby Jenks, Carlos Quentin, John Danks and Tony Pena all stand as arbitration-eligible, with Jenks and Pena possible non-tender candidates.
As for the potential return of Konerko and Pierzynski to the White Sox, the team is still working under a slightly hamstrung budget as $82 million already is committed to 13 players. The White Sox need a first baseman/designated hitter and a catcher, with a left-handed run producer being a priority, and bullpen help.