Free Agent Stock Watch: Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko's season has him all over the American League leaderboard and on the fringes of the MVP conversation. The 34-year-old has already homered 33 times and he ranks fourth in the league in slugging percentage (.582) and sixth in the league in on base average (.397). Jose Bautista is the only American Leaguer with more home runs than Konerko, who is setting himself up for his next contract.

The Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, White Sox and Nationals could all have some level of interest this winter, but those clubs will be able to turn to the likes of Carlos Pena, Adam LaRoche and Adam Dunn if they don't like Konerko's asking price.

Dunn has similar numbers to Konerko and is reportedly seeking a three or four-year deal. Two winters ago, when Dunn was negotiating his current contract, he had to lower his demands. He eventually signed for $20MM over two years, though he was coming off a season in which he hit 40 homers and posted an .898 OPS. Dunn's reputation as a poor defender hurt him then and will likely limit his value again this winter. UZR has generally ranked Konerko as an average defender, though the metric suggests his fielding has been poor in 2010. 

Konerko's age (he turns 35 in Spring Training 2011) will likely make teams reluctant to commit to him for more than two seasons. Though Konerko has generally been healthy this season, he recently missed games with lower back stiffness. He can hit for power, but a number of similarly skilled DHs and first basemen will hit free agency along with Konerko this winter. If the first baseman is a Type A free agent after the season, as expected, and he turns down an offer of arbitration from the White Sox, teams would have to give up a draft pick to sign him, which could reduce interest.

Despite his age, Konerko is having his best season in years. Other players aren't as reliable as the 14-year veteran, who has hit fewer than 27 homers just two times in the last decade. That kind of consistency will allow Konerko to ask for a multi-year deal with a significant base salary. A two-year contract worth $20MM or so seems reasonable at this point.

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