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Does White Sox GM Ken Williams have something brewing?

Carlos Quentin

Carlos Quentin

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Updated: December 15, 2011 10:02AM

The White Sox are attracting trade interest in John Danks and Gavin Floyd and likely have fielded calls about Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton. At the general managers meetings in Milwaukee on Monday and Tuesday, GM Ken Williams will look the suitors in the eye and perhaps get a better gauge on what he might receive in return.

Gauging the degree of Williams’ intent to wheel and deal is no simple task, though, especially at this early juncture in the planning process. The Sox, still wondering who Adam Dunn is and what he’ll be, are still mapping out a plan for next season.

One thing is certain: The payroll will fall short of the 2011 total of $127 million, a club record that returned a 79-83 bust, attendance that barely topped 2 million and red ink in the financial ledger. As the roster stands now, with $91 million committed to 13 players and Danks and Quentin in line for $8 million-$9 million and $6 million-$7 million in arbitration, respectively, there is no room to add, especially if the Sox re-sign free agent Mark Buehrle.

Aside from a utility infielder to replace free agent Omar Vizquel, the Sox have no glaring needs. The greatest need is to have Dunn (.159, 11 home runs), Alex Rios (.227, 13 homers) and Gordon Beckham (.230) return to form.

Therein lies Williams’ predicament. If the production from the pricey Dunn and Rios resembles their good years, it’s reasonable to assume the Sox can contend in the American League Central even without Buehrle, assuming Chris Sale steps into the rotation and eats up Buehrle’s innings. If Williams projects that they won’t produce, he’ll be more inclined to deal.

“You know by now I’m generally ready,” Williams said. “I’m not ready right now. There is some fact-finding that has to go on, and this is going to take a while.’’

Before dealing his movable pieces for younger, major-league-ready players or top minor-leaguers worthy of the 40-man roster, “We have to exhaust ourselves to make sure that if we end up making a deal or end up staying the course and try to add to it, that we know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into,” Williams said.

Floyd will earn $7 million in 2012 and has a $9.5 million club option for 2013. Danks could earn about as much at arbitration and can become a free agent after next season.

If one of the above is dealt and Buehrle — who already has received a contract offer from Ozzie Guillen’s Miami Marlins and will get many more as one of the top free-agent pitchers — goes elsewhere, the Sox would have a rotation of Jake Peavy, Philip Humber, Sale, Zach Stewart and Danks or Floyd.

With the rotation in a possible state of flux and Sale likely leaving the bullpen, Williams picked up the $3.75 million option on proven veteran reliever Jason Frasor. With Sergio Santos, Jesse Crain, Frasor and lefties Thornton and Will Ohman, the Sox have depth in the pen, assuming the promise shown by Addison Reed late last season was no mirage.

With Beckham getting another try with new hitting coach Jeff Manto, the infield is likely set with Brent Morel, Alexei Ramirez, Beckham and Paul Konerko.

It’s not out of the question that Williams would listen to offers for A.J. Pierzynski, who had trouble throwing out runners last season but has value as an experienced left-handed hitting catcher with a World Series ring. With Tyler Flowers stepping up and showing he’s closer to being a No. 1 catcher, Pierzynski could be expendable.

Last season, he said he’d consider agreeing to a trade under his 5-and-10 no-trade protection, but only if the situation was right. Pierzynski is due to earn $6 million in the second year of his contract.

Quentin, like Danks, is due for a raise after earning $5.05 million last season, and is deemed movable with Alejandro De Aza, Dayan Viciedo and Rios able to fill the outfield while Quentin approaches free agency after next season. But Quentin was a run producer in the middle of the order along with Konerko. If he goes, Williams will be banking on Viciedo.

“If I feel at the end of the day that the best scenarios present for us are those in which we have to take that big step back, then we will do so and field a younger team,” Williams said. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t be trying to win. That means we’ll get young guys who are ready for the major leagues or very close and we’ll see how competitive we can be.”

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