- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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The White Sox expect to have a budget between $105-$110 million. General manager Ken Williams already has $80 million committed to 10 players. That list includes Bobby Jenks, John Danks and Carlos Quentin, who all will be eligible for arbitration. Almost $50 million of that amount is tied up in five starting pitchers, including the injured Jake Peavy, whose status is unknown for 2011.
The Sox have two significant players to decide on: Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski. According to some sources, Konerko may want to stay out west for family purposes. If that's the case, the South Siders may put a chunk of change in the direction of free-agent first baseman Adam Dunn.
The market place has numerous choices for Dunn, whom the Sox tried to acquire at the trading deadline in July. One GM told ESPNChicago.com that Dunn's asking price would be three years and $40 million. That price may be out of the Sox's reach. However, Williams covets Dunn, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf always has stepped up when his management team believed in a player for the future, regardless of cost.
Reliever J.J. Putz will be tough to replace if he signs elsewhere, however money may be available for Putz if the team trades or non-tenders Jenks, whose arbitration number will be around $9 million on 2011. Jenks made $7.5 million last year.
Rumors out of Los Angeles suggest the Dodgers would trade one of their young position players in the right deal. The Sox and Dodgers have a recent history of making transactions -- Juan Pierre for two young pitchers; Manny Ramirez picked up as a free agent. Los Angeles first baseman James Loney would look good in a Sox uniform. Although not a home run hitter, Loney would hit 7-10 more at U.S. Cellular Field, rather than cavernous Dodgers stadium.
If Pierzynski is not offered a new contract or arbitration by the White Sox, the team might need to fortify its catching core. Tyler Flowers and Ramon Castro may not be the answer. Williams will listen to offers about the availability of Carlos Quentin.
Insiders say the Cubs' payroll will be down 5-7 percent from $144 million in 2011. If that's the case, general manager Jim Hendry may have only $5 million-$7 million to use in free agency, unless he can move a veteran contract or two.
Hendry's payroll has been stagnant since July, 2008. The Cubs have between $125-$130 million already committed to existing contracts, arbitration cases and the 40-man roster.
The Cubs' original plan was to go after slugger Adam Dunn to replace the run producing of Derrek Lee at first base. Money now prohibits that decision. The Cubs wanted Dunn, and Dunn -- according to sources -- wanted the Cubs. The team will have to visit the free-agent list of other left-handed hitting first basemen, it appears.
The Cubs are in need of a starting pitcher and a set-up man to go with a left-handed power bat.
Former Cubs sensation Kerry Wood most likely would come back to the team as a set-up man if the Cubs can make a decent offer. Wood made $10 million last season as a closer for the Indians and set-up man for the Yankees.
If Wood isn't available, there is a good crop of free-agent set-up men out there, starting Jason Frasor, Grant Balfour, Chad Durbin and Jesse Crane. Again, money will be an issue in this department, as well as free-agent starting pitching.
The Cubs like right-handed pitcher Jake Westbrook, who will be looking for a minimum of two years with an option.
As in the past two years, Hendry will have to trade a contract or two in order to make some money available for other moves. Right fielder Kosuke Fukudome is a likely candidate to be moved. He'll make $13 million in the last year of his four-year, $48 million contract. In order to move Fukudome, the Cubs will have to eat a portion of the contract, or trade for another contract that isn't exactly user-friendly -- i.e. Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva.
The Cubs do have some solid young players coming in their organization. In order to compete for a division title next season, they'll have to be creative in the trade market. Carlos Zambrano is owed $36 million over the next two seasons and has told numerous sources that he'll use his no-trade clause to block any trades. Alfonso Soriano has four years remaining on his contract in the $70 million area, and he also has a no-trade clause. As does Aramis Ramirez with one year and $14.6 million, and a $2 million buyout.
The wild card for both teams is San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. San Diego may decide to keep Gonzalez, who is a free agent after 2011 in order to market the team and sell tickets. If not, he's a perfect fit for what the Cubs and Sox are looking for this offseason, a 30-HR, 100-RBI run producer. Gonzalez's contract makes sense for both teams at $6.2 million in 2011, but that will jump to somewhere between $15-20 million per season beginning in 2012. Both teams will want to talk to Gonzalez's agent about a long-term deal before committing the three or four