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Inbox: How will Hahn maintain a contending club?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers questions from White Sox fans

Inbox: How will Hahn maintain a contending club? play video for Inbox: How will Hahn maintain a contending club?
CHICAGO -- Let's take a look at this week's batch of White Sox Inbox questions, with SoxFest looming just one week away.

What are Rick Hahn's long-term goals in keeping the White Sox a contending team?
-- Bill, Mundelein, Ill.

That question is better suited for Hahn, and I will ask him directly during SoxFest. But remember, Hahn worked 12 years with general manager Ken Williams before taking over this season, so the theories probably aren't going to be wildly different during his GM tenure.

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Clearly, Hahn values pitching much like any general manager with championship aspirations. The signing of Jeff Keppinger also indicates that while Hahn understands the value of the home run, especially at U.S. Cellular Field, he wants the offense to be a bit more diversified and versatile. There will be a bit more of a focus on developing young players in their system and even on adding top-notch international talent.

With all of the above taken into consideration, I'm still fairly certain Hahn would include a top young player in a deal if it gave the White Sox a greatly increased chance to win in the present. The goal is to find that perfect mix of veterans and burgeoning stars to consistently win titles.

In the next two years, Paul Konerko, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton, Gavin Floyd, Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy will become free agents. How do you think the White Sox will handle these players? I see wholesale changes in the team, to the point where by 2015, we won't even recognize the roster.
-- Dean, Libertyville, Ill.

It's almost impossible to make a blanket statement about all of these players, but Dean, you are correct in stating that the roster will experience some significant turnover. As I mentioned above, the White Sox have always tried to blend veteran leadership with an infusion of a young player or two, and what people might see in this instance is more young players getting a chance.

There really are too many unknown variables to make predictions. How many more years does captain Konerko play after 2013? Do the veteran players in question struggle or finish strong over the next two years? Does the young talent develop as expected, or are there both positive and negative surprises? The White Sox have their famous three-year board when making plans, so they are prepared.

The White Sox seem to be looking for another lefty in the lineup to replace A.J. Pierzynski's spot. Who looks to be the odd man out in the lineup, and who's a possibility to fulfill that spot?
--Andy, Elmhurst, Ill.

I can't give you a name for a left-handed hitter, aside from the fact that I don't see interest in Jason Kubel at this point. My best guess would be another left-handed hitting infielder that will allow manager Robin Ventura to take advantage of Keppinger's versatility and play him all over the infield. The team made an offer to Jack Hannahan, but he chose the Reds. I still don't believe the White Sox trade Dayan Viciedo, and I even think a trade of Gordon Beckham would be a long shot. They still could need to open a spot if they find that left-handed hitter.

Tank (Dayan Viciedo) and (Gavin) Floyd to Colorado for CarGo (Carlos Gonzalez). Who says no, assuming, of course, that (John) Danks is healthy and ready to go?
--Simon, Chicago

Not me. I really believe Viciedo has the chance to be a frontline player in the American League, if not a star. I wouldn't trade him just to get a left-handed hitter, but in Gonzalez, we are talking about a left-hander ranking in the special-player category. We are also talking a player owed $71 million over the next five seasons.

Many interesting fan trades come my way via the Inbox or just e-mail. There are some solid ideas, like the one above, and then a few that are a bit more far-fetched.

With the amount of outfield prospects the White Sox have in the Minors, do you see Hahn possibly packaging a couple of these with maybe a young pitcher to get an impact bat?
-- Tom, Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Hahn quite possibly would trade a prospect or two. But the White Sox aren't about to give up players who they control for years in exchange for a player who would help for just one year, unless they are certain that one player is the definitive missing piece.

As bad as the rankings have been for the White Sox system, they do have a few players drawing opposing interest. Then again, they don't have enough to fill up a blockbuster.

When are you going to change your profile picture that we look at while filling this out? It's clearly from your days as a Wolverine.
--Brian, Chicago

Humorous observation, Brian, and the picture is a little dated. But it doesn't go back to my days at the University of Michigan. And speaking of Michigan, how about that recent win over Minnesota?

Last year at this time, the White Sox were excited about Brett Morel coming off of the September he put together in 2011. Now he is a forgotten man. Is he off the White Sox radar now because they think he won't be able to hit big league pitching or because they don't think he can stay healthy?
--Jon, Grafton, Wisconsin

Maybe a little bit of both, but certainly the greater concerns fall with his back.

Morel spoke to MLB.com at the end of November about feeling as healthy as he had in almost one year, and was following a program that would keep him in that state throughout the season. The important thing for Morel now is to show his back holds up during everyday play. In order to prove that fact true, I'm guessing Morel starts the season with Triple-A Charlotte unless he's traded beforehand. His utility infield value at the big league level is not as high, because the White Sox view him primarily as a third baseman.

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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