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Thursday, November 14
Konerko agrees with White Sox to three-year deal

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- First baseman Paul Konerko, who had his first 100-RBI season and made the AL All-Star team for the first time, agreed Thursday to a $23 million, three-year contract with the Chicago White Sox.

Paul Konerko
First Base
Chicago White Sox
151 27 104 81 0 .304

"Any time a team is going to go and offer you a multiyear deal, whether it be three or four years, they're saying they are committed to you and believe in you,'' Konerko said. "It's me saying I don't want to go anywhere else, I'm happy where I'm at.''

Konerko, 26, batted a career-high .304 with 27 home runs and 104 RBIs in 151 games last season, although he struggled in the second half.

He finished second on the team in hits (173), doubles (30), slugging percentage (.498), total bases (284), average and RBIs, and was third in home runs and runs scored (81).

Konerko, bothered by a sore foot and shoulder the final five weeks of the season, batted .328 with 20 homers and 71 RBIs before the All-Star break and hit .270 with seven homers and 33 RBIs the second half.

"I came from the All-Star game swinging it well and I went into the tank right when the team was, too, and that bothered me, not helping that situation,'' Konerko said. "The injury thing the last month or so was tough.''

Konerko, who would have been eligible for free agency after the 2004 season, has been a .291 hitter with 104 home runs and 381 RBIs in 592 games with the White Sox after being acquired from Cincinnati for Mike Cameron in November 1998.

"He has been extremely consistent over the past four seasons, and is a major influence and leader in our clubhouse,'' assistant general manager Rick Hahn said.

His career average is .287 with 111 home runs and 410 RBIs in 673 career games with the Dodgers (1997-98), Cincinnati (1998) and the White Sox (1999-2002).

Konerko will get $6.25 million in 2003, $8 million in 2004 and $8.75 million in 2005. His salary would increase by $500,000 in each of the final two years if he's traded.

Konerko, who criticized teammate Frank Thomas for missing a pregame stretching exercise last season after he had been benched, said he hopes Thomas finds what makes him happy. And if that is returning to the White Sox, so much the better, especially if the two-time MVP hits the way he once did.

Thomas has until Dec. 7 to find a new team after the White Sox invoked a diminished skills clause in his contract that would defer a portion of his $10 million per season salary.

"Frank is not a bad guy by any means. I want him to be a team guy and go out and do his thing,'' Konerko said.

Thomas and the White Sox have discussed a deal that would guarantee him about $20 million over four years and allow him to make more in bonuses.

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