CHICAGO – Veteran slugger Paul Konerko is returning to the Chicago White Sox.
The team announced Wednesday that the six-time American League All-Star agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, opting to come back for another season rather than retire or sign elsewhere.
The 37-year-old Konerko will receive $1.5 million in 2014 and $1 million in 2021 under the deal. He will also be paid $1 million annually from 2014 to 2020 under the contract he signed in December 2010.
The White Sox won just 63 games last season after finishing second in the AL Central the previous year, and Konerko struggled in a big way.
He dealt with a back issue, and batted .244 with just 12 homers and 54 RBIs. Even so, the White Sox had said they would have a spot for Konerko if he wanted to return, and he’s coming back in a more limited role.
“I’m looking forward to coming back in a new role where I can help both the organization and my teammates get turned around in the right direction and also do some productive things on the field,” Konerko said in a statement.
The White Sox aren’t necessarily counting on him to regain the form that made that made him one of the most successful sluggers in franchise history. They see him as a clubhouse leader and a mentor for newcomer Jose Abreau, the Cuban slugger they signed in October.
Konerko, who in 15 seasons with the White Sox ranks second on the franchise list to Frank Thomas in homers and RBIs, will back up Abreu at first base and see time at designated hitter along with Adam Dunn.
A .281 hitter over 17 major league seasons, Konerko was acquired from Cincinnati in November 1998. He has hit all but seven of his 434 homers with the White Sox, and he helped them win the World Series championship in 2005 – the franchise’s first since 1917.
One of the enduring images of that run is Konerko handing the ball from the final out to team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf at the parade.
“Paul Konerko has been the constant face of the White Sox organization and the heart of our clubhouse over the past 15 seasons,” Reinsdorf said in a statement.
“He certainly earned the right to make this decision on his own, and we are very pleased that he has decided to return for another season. While the accomplishments speak for themselves – six All-Star Games, a World Series title, 427 home runs with the White Sox – anyone who is in our clubhouse day-in and day-out knows the value Paul brings to our franchise as a leader, as a teammate, as a mentor and as our captain.”