White Sox's objective: Add offense, spare Jose Quintana

NASHVILLE -- Finding upgrades on offense, specifically at third base, remains the Chicago White Sox’s priority at the winter meetings this week.

At the same time, a trade of starting pitcher Jose Quintana to address deficiencies with scoring runs seems less likely than it did at the start of the offseason.

General manager Rick Hahn offered the club’s intentions on offense, although they hardly were a secret after the White Sox struggled to score runs in 2015. He was hesitant to mention third base specifically though, doing so only when pressed.

“We think there are some avenues to go down to get better at third base, yeah,” Hahn finally said.

Quintana was expected to be dangled in order to reel in a third baseman, with other pieces desired in return as well. The White Sox’s asking price could be too high though, even for those clubs desperate for dependable starting pitching.

And seeing Zack Greinke sign for $206 million, David Price for $217 million, not to mention Jeff Samardzija for $90 million, puts a renewed perspective on the value of starting pitching.

“We’re not tempted in the least to move one of our top starters,” Hahn said. “They’re extraordinarily appealing to others, in part because of not only their natural ability and success, but because of the control and cost of it going forward, especially when compared to the market and what we’ve seen happen to pitchers’ salaries in the last few months.”

It all means the White Sox are going to have to be extremely creative if they want to turn a 76-86 club into a playoff contender.

A desire for more offense at third base essentially is stating the obvious after the White Sox were last in baseball in slugging percentage (.345) and 27th in home runs (13) at the position this past season. But Hahn has his reasons to be less than forthcoming about the team’s key need.

Yes, there is the concept that a desire to improve the third-base situation is not what in-house candidates Mike Olt and Matt Davidson would like to hear. More important, Hahn would rather not openly express a key desire for potential trade partners to hear.

One name that has surfaced in potential talks is Oakland Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie, who hit 16 home runs with 60 RBIs this past season with a .407 slugging percentage. The San Francisco Chronicle also reported that in addition to the White Sox, the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers have interest in Lawrie.

But third base isn’t the White Sox’s only need. While sources have conflicted on whether the White Sox have interest in bringing back Alexei Ramirez, it seems unlikely as he remains a free agent after the White Sox declined his $10 million option for next season.

Outside options at shortstop include free agents Ian Desmond and Asdrubal Cabrera, although the White Sox are not opposed to using Tyler Saladino as their everyday shortstop in 2016.

“The fact is (Saladino) can help us defensively at three different positions, with short possibly being his best position,” Hahn said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out what we’re surrounding him with and what we can reasonably expect from him offensively and how that fits into the whole.”

Hahn has noted Saladino’s tendency to improve offensively in his second season at the same level, a track record that would bode well for next season. A move to using Saladino full time, though, likely would be in concert with finding a third baseman with run-producing potential.

Possibly holding up a White Sox move for a position player is the logjam in that area so far this offseason. While catchers and starting pitchers have come off the board, position player movement has been stagnant.

“Last year was an extraordinarily active winter meetings, not only for us but all throughout baseball,” Hahn said. “There have been other years that have been a lot slower to develop. From our standpoint, it’s about getting the right players in place by Opening Day.

“There are no extra runs scored for getting a deal done at the Opryland Hotel. We’d love to get all of our needs addressed as soon as possible, but we’re not going to force it.”