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White Sox GM Rick Hahn in search of hitters

Updated: November 12, 2013 9:51PM

ORLANDO, Fla. — Maybe Paul Konerko returns. Maybe Chris Sale doesn’t?

Not that the White Sox plan to trade their ace this winter. But teams have been asking, and GM Rick Hahn said — like most GMs — that he’ll stay open-minded. That likely will keep Sale’s name in rumors this winter.

The larger point is that very little is certain this off-season for a 99-loss team with perceived pitching depth and little else. But it has just enough payroll flexibility to be very active in addressing its hitting.

If the $68 million signing of first baseman Jose Abreu was the first step in that process, a meeting Hahn and manager Robin Ventura had last week in Arizona with Paul Konerko was Step 1A.

During the general managers meetings Tuesday, Hahn said he and Ventura made it clear that Konerko has a place on the team if he wants it, even if it’s unclear what his playing time or pay cut would be.

“He’s still at a point where he’s in his process to decide what he wants to do next year,” Hahn said. “We don’t have a timetable or specific date for that.”

But he said he expects to hear from Konerko before the winter meetings Dec. 9-12.

The six-time All-Star, who turns 38 on March 5, likely would be looking at a sharp decrease from his $13.5 million salary this year. And how he fits in a lineup with Abreu and Adam Dunn will be addressed only if and when Konerko says he wants to return.

Until then, Hahn is focusing on an offensive overhaul that could result in a flurry of roster moves.

A $112 million Opening Day payroll from 2013 is expected to be lower heading into next season, but there’s enough salary coming off the books to allow Hahn to make upgrades. Plus, he can ignore the bidding wars for some of the high-priced pitchers on the market, including Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka.

“Our strengths are [in pitching], and people obviously see we have a fair amount of need,” he said of conversations with other execs. “Early in most conversations, some of our pitchers are brought up. Some more than others. But there’s been a fair amount of guys from our staff and even some from the minors mentioned over the last few weeks.”

Sale is among them. But as hard as good hitting is to find these days, Hahn doesn’t plan to give up the rare commodity of a No. 1 starter — or undergo a rebuilding effort that a trade would imply.

“We’re not doing our jobs if we’re not open-minded to at least listen to the idea,” he said. “But moving him is not something we’re looking to do.

“Obviously, he’s signed for the next six years if we exercise both options. And we fully intend to win within that window.”

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