SEATTLE — One basic sentiment governed Jermaine Dye’s thought process when dealing with the White Sox in regard to a possible multi-year extension.
“I just wanted to be treated fair, that’s it,” said the right fielder, who admitted he was willing to take less money than might have been offered by other teams in order to be with an organization where he felt comfortable and had a chance to win a title. “I don’t want to speculate on money and all that stuff.”
Speculation on money, contract length and where Dye would be playing baseball for the next few years came to an end Saturday morning, as another possible frontline free agent officially moved off the open market. Dye agreed to a two-year, $22 million extension with the White Sox.
The talented veteran earned $7 million in 2007 and originally signed a two-year, $10.15 million deal to join the White Sox prior to the 2005 season. His new salary calls for $9.5 million in 2008 and then increases to $11.5 million in 2009, with a mutual option of $12 million for 2010, along with a $1 million buyout.
Dye, 33, had expressed a strong desire to stay in Chicago, even through rumors of his potential trade to Boston near the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Dye also had hinted at the time of ongoing discussions between the White Sox and his agent, Bob Bry, and was not surprised at how the deal came together before the end of August, let alone the season’s end.
“They knew where I was, how much I wanted to be here, and they wanted me here,” said Dye, sitting in the visitors dugout at Safeco Field on Saturday. “I expressed that I had hoped we would get something done sooner than later, and it came together real quick.
“But I wasn’t surprised at all. It was fair for me, fair for them, and I’m happy. With me being comfortable here, everything about Chicago — I get to be in a place where I’m happy.
“This wasn’t about trying to go out and be a free agent, and then get as much money as I can or the years I want,” added Dye, who said the third year option as part of the new contract ultimately made the difference and gave him a little security. “I feel happy here.”
If Dye’s words ring true for White Sox fans, it’s probably because they recently heard the same basic commentary back before the All-Star break when Mark Buehrle agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal. Both players probably left more money on the table, and certainly more years, in order to stay with an organization and a city where they felt a connection.
In return, Ken Williams and the White Sox stepped up and secured important pieces for their reloading process moving toward 2008 and beyond.
“Since October of 2000, I made no secret about trying to be as aggressive as we possibly can in our quest to win a championship,” said Williams, addressing the Dye and Buehrle signings. “As I’ve always said, I’ll let you know when we’re in a rebuilding mode.
“Now is not the time for that. We still have far too many pieces that I consider championship pieces for us to go in that direction.”
Consider Dye an important piece of that championship puzzle.
Following a subpar first half Dye termed as something he had never gone through before during his stellar career, the 2006 Silver Slugger Award winner has returned to form since the All-Star break. Dye has a .311 average, 12 home runs and 23 RBIs over 33 games since the Midsummer Classic, compared to a .214 average, 12 home runs and 39 RBIs over his first 71 contests. Dye also has a .680 slugging percentage in the second half and a .391 on-base percentage.
According to Dye, the first-half slump had nothing to do with his tenuous contractual status. His approach or pregame work hasn’t changed — the hits simply are falling in for Dye. The slow start put extra pressure on Dye’s broad shoulders, but the even-keel two-time All-Star said Saturday that the constant talk of his movement around the trade deadline took its toll.
“No doubt, it’s tough,” Dye said. “You come to the ballpark not knowing if you’re going to get called in the office every day. You just have to learn how to play through it, understand it’s a business.”
With Dye and Buehrle in place and Tadahito Iguchi traded to the Phillies to make room for rookie Danny Richar at second base, the White Sox are without a free agent heading into the offseason. It’s certainly a different landscape for Williams and the organization than what looked to be possible back in Spring Training, when all three negotiations appeared set for Hot Stove discussions.
Decisions still need to be made by the White Sox in regard to shortstop Juan Uribe, who the club holds a $5 million option for 2008, as well as outfielder Darin Erstad, with a $3.5 million club option for 2008 or a $250,000 buyout. Joe Crede and Scott Podsednik also are arbitration eligible.
Part of the thought process behind moving players such as Iguchi and even Rob Mackowiak was to free up a little more money as Williams builds the roster moving forward. Bringing back his own potential free agents certainly doesn’t signal the end of the road for Williams, not with potential difference makers available on the open mark such as Torii Hunter, as an example.
Keeping Dye and Buehrle, though, certainly stands as a positive start.
“Buehrle’s signature and JD’s signature, we are going to show the fans in Chicago we are going to go for it in 2008,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I kept saying that all this summer. Kenny is going to start putting the pieces together to show people we are not going to destroy everything and build again.”
“What was said by Kenny and Ozzie, and everything, about where this team is headed in a couple of years, we’re going to try and get back to that championship form again,” Dye added. “That played a big factor. It played a big factor in me coming here as a free agent the first time. As a player, you just want to win.”