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Cowley: The Chairman Is Now In On The Konerko Talks In The 11th Hour

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Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko (Photo Credit: Getty)

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By Joe Cowley–

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – It wasn’t the news Ken Williams thought he would have to deliver on Tuesday.

“I was very hopeful coming down here,’’ the White Sox general manager explained, when asked about the latest on the Paul Konerko free-agent front. “I’m less hopeful now. I was hoping it wouldn’t necessarily come down to us really getting serious with our other options but we have no choice at this point.’’

Leave it to board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, however, to try and play governor and stop the execution of “The King’’ leaving the South Side from happening.

The Sun-Times was told late Tuesday night by a Sox source that Reinsdorf “still wants this to happen and will try everything he can to make it happen’’ with the hope that the club can have it resolved by Wednesday afternoon.

That was a far cry from the mood Williams was painting when he not only talked about the impasse with Konerko, but said “we can’t stop the train,’’ indicating that the Sox would now move on.

Asked what the sticking point was with Konerko, Williams would not elaborate.

“The one thing I think is necessary, it’s appropriate, particularly when we’re talking about a guy that has been so respectful and so first class that this doesn’t need to be any more public than it is,’’ Williams said. “So we’ll keep those issues private.’’

The Sun-Times reported earlier in the day that Konerko – nicknamed “The King’’ – and his camp were adamant that there would be no pay cut from the $12 million he made last season, and if anything, hitting 39 homers and 111 RBI in 2010 made him a $15-million a year player.

With the Sox adding Adam Dunn and paying the left-handed slugger $15 million a year in his final two years, there was a respect factor that Konerko was looking for. A source reiterated that Tuesday evening, insisting, “I talked to Paulie [Monday] night and he said the Sox were his priority unless they made an offer that disrespected him.”

The source said that Konerko had multiple teams interested in him, and Williams confirmed that.

But the GM seemed ready to move on, still looking to add a first baseman, as well as bring in another weapon for the backend of the bullpen.

“I don’t much care what the perception of how we have to do business because we’re going to just try and put the best team on the field,’’ Williams said. “We’re going to be measured ultimately with how good the team performs and that’s the measuring stick we should go by. But I will do everything in my power to make people understand that Paul makes his own decisions and for his own reasons, and that needs to be respected. He’s given Chicago everything that we have a right to expect. There will be no hard feelings on this end. It’s just the business of baseball.’’

A business that might move quickly.

“All I can say is that we have meetings with other guys’ representatives [Tuesday night] and it’s with the mindset to try and get a deal done,’’ Williams said. “I know that we did reach out one more time to see if we can have one more round of dialogue [with Konerko’s agent Craig Landis] and if it works it works. If it doesn’t, we can’t stop the train.’’
Earlier in the day, there were reports that the Sox had former Cubs hurler Kerry Wood on the radar for a bullpen spot. A source said Wood was “too expensive,’’ however, but that was said with most in the organization feeling Konerko was all but a done deal and would return for a 13th season.

Now, everyone with “free agent’’ next to their name was back in play for not only the bullpen, but first base. That included Derrek Lee, which was reported on Monday.

“Moving forward this may afford us the ability to do a couple of other things along with filling the position,’’ Williams said. “So the assumption that we will end this or will ultimately be worse for it is incorrect. I think we still have a chance to put a real good player in the position and do some other things.’’

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