CHICAGO -- The White Sox have liked Adam Dunn's power, especially since it comes from the left side of the plate, for some time. On Friday, Dunn and the White Sox completed their deal, covering four years at $56 million.
Dunn, 31, hit .260 with 38 home runs and 103 RBIs last season for the Washington Nationals. The 6-foot-6 first baseman/designated hitter is a career .250 hitter with 354 home runs and 880 RBIs in 1,448 games with Cincinnati, Arizona and the Nationals.
He has recorded 40 or more home runs in a season five times, 100-plus RBIs six times, 100-plus walks seven times and 100-plus runs scored three times. In each of the past seven seasons, he hit between 38 and 46 home runs and drove in between 92 and 106 runs. He is the only player in the Major Leagues to hit at least 38 home runs each season during that span.
"Adam Dunn has been one of the premier left-handed power hitters in baseball for the last decade," general manager Ken Williams said in a statement announcing the signing. "Coupled with his patience at the plate, we think he is a great fit in our lineup and in our ballpark. It's no secret that we have coveted Adam's services for quite some time, so it goes without saying how excited we are to bring him into the fold."
Williams will welcome the first piece of what could make the White Sox not only a prime contender in the American League Central, but one of the AL's top teams. Paul Konerko stands as the second important addition to complete that puzzle on offense, the true heart and soul of the organization for the past 12 years.
Williams readily admitted on Thursday that one of his top priorities is keeping Konerko, a free agent, in a White Sox uniform. That process sounds as if it won't play out until after next week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., despite trying to initiate talks with Konerko and agent Craig Landis on a couple of occasions, according to Williams.
"We respect Paul's decision and the decision of Craig Landis, his agent, to take Paul through the Winter Meetings and flush out all his offers," Williams said. "We are trying to be patient and respectful of his process, but also mindful of losing opportunities for another player if we were not able to bring back Paulie.
"One thing Paul and I talked about last season was remaining respectful of one another's position and remaining mindful there is a process that goes on. I've never been accused of being patient, but I have the responsibility to the team and the city to put the best club on the field.
"There's a fine line to make sure we are respectful of his process, but cognizant of where we are and putting the best team out there," Williams added.
With $81 million already committed to 13 players for the 2011 season, there were doubts as to whether the White Sox could add one major force such as Dunn or Konerko, let alone two. Williams presented an offseason plan to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf where the White Sox go young.
In fact, Williams presented two budgetary plans to Reinsdorf at the start of the offseason, when he usually gives Reinsdorf three or four. One had the White Sox moving veterans to get young, up-and-coming players, while the second was to add impact veterans to the current mix. The White Sox simply didn't want to get caught in between.
They weren't about to add players through free agency just to say they made a move, players who wouldn't have the impact of Dunn and Konerko.
"You see the obvious decision," said Williams of the White Sox going all in, so to speak. "It's a difficult challenge to try to find the revenue to support the payroll, and we are out on a limb a little bit."
That limb could be strengthened considerably if Dunn simply produces as he consistently has done over the course of his career. Dunn is extremely durable, having played at least 158 games in seven of his Major League seasons. He has 354 career home runs over his decade-long career, with 1,632 strikeouts, but he also has a career on-base percentage of .381.
Think a younger version of Jim Thome, with the ability and strong desire to play in the field. And here's another similarity Dunn shares with Thome: Those who know the slugger consider him one of the most likeable players in the game and a definite clubhouse plus.
"He's one of the true characters of baseball," said White Sox reliever Matt Thornton, who played with Dunn on Team USA during the World Baseball Classic. "He's a fun person to be around, keeping things loose. Adam Dunn really is a great addition to any team."
"Adam is one of the most underrated players in the game," said Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who was Dunn's teammate for the past two years in Washington. "The contract is deserved for what he does every year. Obviously, I wish he could be on my team, but in the end, he has to do what is best for his family. He gets respected and gets what he deserves. It's good for him."
Dunn had expressed a desire to do more than simply serve as a designated hitter, but as Thornton pointed out, that request simply shows Dunn's desire to play. Even if Konerko returns, Dunn, 31, would get some time at first base.
Give Williams credit for identifying players who can help the White Sox and staying with them until they are part of the team -- see Jake Peavy and Ken Griffey Jr. as past examples. When Williams talks Friday about how he had interest in Dunn for the past two years, as he has done with players acquired or signed in the past, he certainly won't be stretching the truth. The affable big man was the White Sox prime target at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last year, but the White Sox and Nationals couldn't agree on a deal.
Now, Konerko and Dunn could be playing together. Plan B, as laid out by the ultra-aggressive Williams, certainly looks good in its early form.
"Not only is there room for both of them," said Williams. "It's the ideal fit."