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Sox in '15: Team created financial flexibility

It is no accident the Chicago White Sox will have a significant amount of money to spend this offseason.

The White Sox started clearing the books back in July 2013 when Jake Peavy was traded to the Boston Red Sox. As big as it was to get back Avisail Garcia in the three-way deal that also included the Detroit Tigers, a major part of that transaction was the fact that the Red Sox assumed Peavy's salary moving forward.

Similar moves followed suit. Alex Rios' contract commitments were sent to the Texas Rangers in August 2013, with Leury Garcia coming back in return. Gordon Beckham, who could make as much as $6 million in arbitration for next season, was sent to the Los Angeles Angels this August, while the move that sent Adam Dunn to the Oakland Athletics saved the club about $1 million.

When the 2013 season started, the White Sox had committed about $120 million to the roster. This season, when the White Sox's overall record was 10 games better than it was one year earlier, they committed about $90 million to payroll, and that was before Beckham and Dunn were moved.

The front office is working on a spending plan for 2015, and while it likely will rise north of $90 million, it isn't expected to reach the $120 million heights just yet. One legitimate budget restrictor, whether White Sox fans want to hear it or not, is declining attendance.

The total head count at U.S. Cellular Field (1.65 million this season) was down for the eighth consecutive season. That's well below the club-record 2.96 million that showed up in 2006, the year after the White Sox won the World Series.

It's a classic chicken/egg scenario, of course. Fans don't want to come out and see a team that struggles, while management can't fill holes with its No. 1 option until more people come to the park.

So while payroll could rise in 2015, expect it to be closer to that $90 million starting point than $120 million. That still leaves plenty to dish out, though.

The White Sox have only about $41 million committed to the roster next season, or $46 million when adding what still is owed to Jeff Keppinger and Scott Downs, both of whom were released in 2014. Add another $10 million to $11 million for arbitration-eligible players and players who are under team contract control.

That doesn't account for Ronald Belisario, who made $3 million and is expected to be non-tendered, making him a free agent. Then the White Sox need to make a decision on Dayan Viciedo, who made $2.8 million this past season and also is arbitration eligible.

In any event, the White Sox still have a considerable amount of money to spend. The next question: how to spend it.

Expect the White Sox to explore options with a left fielder, catcher and right-handed starter. But the main additions in free agency could come in the bullpen, if the White Sox don't answer that issue first with trades.