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White Sox narrowing down 'likely alternatives'

White Sox narrowing down 'likely alternatives'

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A perfect Winter Meetings finish to general manager Rick Hahn's stay at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Hotel would be a press conference Wednesday or Thursday to announce a deal that the White Sox all felt made the team better.

In a perfect world, manager Robin Ventura would be putting together his lineup, laying out his starting rotation and trying to configure a seven-man bullpen in anticipation of the start of Spring Training on Feb. 12. As anyone who watches the game knows, though, baseball rarely is perfect.

So, Hahn and the White Sox front office continue to work on plans to answer what can be done at third base and behind the plate, assuming free agents Kevin Youkilis and A.J. Pierzynski don't return. Ventura, who addressed the media in Nashville on Tuesday evening, will wait to fully assess the team until those plans are finalized.

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"You can't look at it as a complete roster," Ventura said. "You're down here, you see what kind of phone calls are coming in, asking for guys, and you have to explore those options, whether you like them or not. But again, it's not a complete roster so it's not done yet."

"Today was a good day in terms of substantive talks with other clubs and agents," Hahn said. "I do feel that there's progress made in terms of knowing what the likely alternatives are."

Hahn reiterated that the team doesn't feel pressure to get a move done at the Winter Meetings simply because of the expectations for finality associated with this public forum. The team doesn't get any extra wins this summer by acquiring a guy on Dec. 5 as opposed to Dec. 15, Hahn added.

Locking down Jake Peavy to the two-year, $29 million extension at the end of October, as an example, worked to the team's favor as opposed to the right-hander entering free agency and the deal getting done in Nashville after other teams potentially drove up the market.

"Our goal is by Opening Day to have the best combination of talent that gives us a chance to win the most ballgames," Hahn said. "If that's a result of deals that happen while we are in Nashville, then great. If it requires us to take the information gathered here back to Chicago and choose a path that comes to fruition in the coming weeks, that's fine, too."

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf pointed out Tuesday night that the White Sox payroll for 2012 was higher than what has been reported. While the payroll at the start of the season was $97.7 million, by the end of the season the total figure had risen to $109 million, Reinsdorf said.

When asked if the payroll would be at that level again in 2013, Reinsdorf said that it would be at least that much. The White Sox currently have $89.95 million committed to 10 players but still have a little more room to work when factoring in Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza's arbitration and the rest of the roster.

Tyler Flowers appears locked in as Pierzynski's replacement behind the plate, although the White Sox still figure to add a veteran to the mix, despite Hahn supporting a Flowers-Hector Gimenez combination on Monday. Third base is not nearly as clear-cut, with the free-agent market thin at the position, and 2011 starter Brent Morel still needing to prove his back is healthy.

Morel recently told MLB.com that his back felt good for the first time since before last Spring Training, and his offseason work with Sparta Performance/Science in California has helped crystallize what he needs to do to keep his back strong. The proof will be in Arizona, with the White Sox possibly adding a left-handed-hitting counterpart to form a platoon.

"You go back to him being healthy. That's the No. 1 thing for us, to get him in there and see him again," said Ventura of Morel. "He's not out of the equation for me at all. Him being healthy and getting back in, he's a good third baseman when he's healthy."

"It's conceivable but with Brent, let's see him healthy," said Hahn of putting together a platoon. "Let's get him 100 percent. He feels good now. Let's have him go through the offseason, do the work to prepare and then get to Glendale and get through spring healthy. Then we'll set our expectations for him going forward."

Ventura spoke in his managerial interview session of giving more time to Adam Dunn at first base and Paul Konerko at designated hitter in 2013, allowing Konerko to have a little more time off his feet in season No. 15 with the White Sox. He praised a deep pitching staff and the return of not just Peavy, the great pitcher, but also the great leader.

Talk also moved to Ventura's young pitchers growing from handling the rigors of a 162-game schedule and using that information gained to get even better in 2013. He likes the "chameleon" nature of Hector Santiago, in that he can pitch anywhere from starter to closer, and the defense and game-calling from Flowers.

All of those categories are known commodities for the upcoming season. It might be a few weeks or longer before Ventura and Hahn know the extent of the full roster and lineup.

"We've been able to move things forward here the last day or so," Hahn said. "It doesn't mean there's going to be a deal the next two days, but there's been progress."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }