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White Sox GM Rick Hahn taking cool approach to winter meetings

Rick Hahn already is building reputatifor downplaying then delivering. | AP

Rick Hahn already is building a reputation for downplaying, then delivering. | AP

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Updated: January 3, 2013 10:51AM

Rick Hahn won’t play the eager-beaver general manager trying to make a good first impression when he runs the White Sox’ winter meetings show for the first time. While admitting his job is the last thing he thinks about when his head hits the pillow and the first thing when he wakes up, Hahn sounded calm, collected and well-rested talking about his upcoming three days in Nashville, Tenn. He cautioned that fans hoping for a splashy acquisition might be disappointed.

‘‘There is no expectation that anything specific is going to happen,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘We’ll continue to have the same conversations we’ve been having with clubs and agents. There is nothing magical there in Nashville that something has to happen.’’


Not so fast. Hahn added something could happen before or shortly after. And keep in mind, he’s the same guy who said re-signing Jake Peavy ‘‘would be a tough one’’ a few days before he got the job done and signed Peavy to two more years with an option for a third.

When Ken Williams was GM and Hahn his assistant, they were the aggressive wheeler-dealer team who always got their guy. Williams, now an executive with a bigger title, will be in Nashville for advice, but Hahn’s at the controls now and figures to be no less aggressive.

‘‘We’re going to continue to pursue any opportunities that will make us better now or in future aggressively,’’ he said. ‘‘The priority and intent remains the same.’’

Thinking about third

Hahn identified his top two offseason priorities as solidifying the starting rotation and third base. He took care of the former by keeping Peavy on board and said there are numerous internal options to take on the latter.

Among them:

1. Re-signing Kevin Youkilis for less than his $13 million option that wasn’t picked up. The level of competition for his services could be made clear in Nashville.

2. Brent Morel. The 2012 Opening Day starter who disappeared because of back problems is saying he’s healthy now, but he’d have to prove it at camp.

3. Carlos Sanchez. The 20-year-old touted infield prospect will show what he can do in spring training, but he fits the mold of a middle infielder. Sanchez has three home runs over four minor-league seasons, not much pop for a corner guy.

4. Gordon Beckham. A long shot that he’ll move back to third, but that possibility has been discussed.

‘‘We have options lined up. We’ve got a list prioritized,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘We’ve had good conversations along different avenues. There may well come a point where we decide the options we have internally are superior to what’s out there via free agency or a trade.’’

Dealing from strength

Somewhat overlooked is the depth in the Sox’ starting rotation, which may be why Hahn appears calm. The Sox have a Cy Young candidate in Chris Sale, a former Cy winner and a veteran leader in Peavy and a $65 million Opening Day starter in John Danks at the top, with Gavin Floyd and capable lefty Jose Quintana (3.76 ERA) on the back end. Not to mention, lefty Hector Santiago waits in the wings.

Rotation depth keeps the Sox in contender company and affords flexibility for trades. They are looking at signing a fifth-starter free agent, making Floyd (who becomes a free agent after season) expendable, possibly for a third baseman.

‘‘The greatest amount of interest [from other teams] is in our pitching staff, the bottom of the rotation and the bullpen,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘Other clubs view us having depth and young guys who’ve had some success and perhaps in a position of having an excess. We’re not inclined to go out there and trim away at that depth. [But] that’s likely the area we would deal from.’’

The bottom line

Ten Sox account for $89.95 million on a payroll that figures to settle above the $100M mark.

Adam Dunn (above) $15M

Jake Peavy $14.5M

John Danks $14.25M

Alex Rios $12.5M

Gavin Floyd $9.5M

Alexei Ramirez $7M

Paul Konerko $6.5M*

Matt Thornton $5.5M

Jesse Crain $4.5M

Dewayne Wise $700K

*$7M deferred over next 7 years

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