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White Sox shun risk with proven additions

11/21/2014
With a track record as a run-producer, Adam LaRoche isn't quite the gamble Jose Abreu was. Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO – If last winter was about taking chances on unproven commodities such as Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton, the Chicago White Sox have gone with proven options as their roster rebuild continues this offseason.

This week alone, the White Sox have added veterans in left-handed reliever Zach Duke and left-handed-hitting run-producer Adam LaRoche, with a number of other holes left to fill. Sources confirmed to ESPN.com on Friday that LaRoche has agreed to a two-year, $25 million deal.

It's clear the club must continue to address its bullpen situation. The White Sox also desire a right-handed starter and an outfielder who potentially could take over in left.

So far, general manager Rick Hahn has filled two major needs in solid fashion and hasn't broken the bank to do it. LaRoche will average $12.5 million over his two-year deal, and Duke will make $4.5 million in 2015, with slight raises in each of the following two seasons.

Not only does Hahn still have more money to spend, but trades remain a possibility to fill needs over the next four weeks, which is usually the prime time frame for making deals. Baseball's winter meetings are set for Dec. 8-11.

It was during last year's winter meetings that Hahn pulled off the trade for center fielder Eaton. The biggest piece the White Sox gave up in that deal was left-hander Hector Santiago, who was in and out of the Los Angeles Angels' rotation last season.

By this time in 2013, Hahn already had slugging first baseman Abreu in the fold. The six-year, $68 million deal to land the Cuban standout was considered risky at the time, but it's now looking like a steal after the disciplined power hitter was the first rookie in major league history to finish in the top five in all three Triple Crown categories.

With a farm system that had been much maligned in the recent past, Hahn now has the option of plugging some holes in next year's roster with highly regarded prospects. The second-base job could end up going to the speedy Micah Johnson, and first-round draft pick Carlos Rodon could end up helping the team out of the bullpen next year before he takes a spot in the rotation down the road.

While the White Sox are not believed to be shopping shortstop Alexei Ramirez to other teams, they have received inquiries on the 2014 All-Star. That kind of a deal doesn't figure to go down, though, unless the White Sox can receive, at bare minimum, a solid defensive shortstop to go along with either a late-inning reliever, a left fielder or a potential starter.

Trading Ramirez for top prospects seems less likely, since they have so many needs at the major-league level and the club has shown with the additions of Duke and LaRoche that it believes it can win sooner rather than later.

There remains a sense the White Sox can get at least one more key deal done before the winter meetings begin, if not more. Just this week club executive vice president Kenny Williams was sounding optimistic.

"I really cannot remember a time where so many good players have been discussed at the general managers' meetings leading up to the winter meetings," Williams said. "I think it's going to be awfully fun once the winter meetings kick off. You're going to have some scrambling going on and I like it like that.

"If it was left up to Rick and me, we'd have started in September and October filling out the roster, but agents and players don't seem to be on our timetable, they seem to be on their own timetable."