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Dec 16, 2014 6:55 PM

White Sox have high hopes after big offseason

The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) General manager Rick Hahn contacted a representative for Melky Cabrera right after the World Series, and agent Peter Greenberg said the free-agent outfielder appreciated the interest from the Chicago White Sox and wanted to know more about the team's offseason plans.

Then the White Sox signed reliever Zach Duke and first baseman Adam LaRoche, and they traded for pitcher Jeff Samardzija and signed closer David Robertson during baseball's winter meetings in San Diego.

"Actually was on the plane getting ready to take off from San Diego on Thursday, I sent Peter a text and said, "I don't know how we would pay for this, but I hope at least at this point Melky sees how he fits and why we want him,'" Hahn said. "And that led to a series of exchanges."

The result was a $42 million, three-year contract for the switch-hitting Cabrera that was announced on Tuesday, another bold move in an impressive offseason for Hahn & Co. Samardzija, Robertson and Cabrera then pulled on their White Sox jerseys later in the day and posed for television cameras and photographers while Chicago's front office basked in the glow of a major chunk of its offseason work.

"So how was your week?" a beaming Hahn cracked soon after he sat down for the introductory press conference.

The 30-year-old Cabrera will make $13 million next year, $14 million in 2016 and $15 million in the final season of the deal. The agreement, which also includes a limited no-trade provision, put Chicago over its planned payroll for next season, but Hahn credited the aggressiveness of owner Jerry Reinsdorf and the positive response from White Sox fans to the team's earlier moves for making the contract happen.

"I think that this is a club from top to bottom that you can now start that process, you can start to raise your level of expectations and you can dream a little bit," Executive Vice President Kenny Williams said.

Cabrera could slot in quite nicely behind leadoff hitter Adam Eaton in Chicago's suddenly deep lineup. He hit .301 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 139 games with Toronto last season. He also is a .336 hitter with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 34 games at U.S. Cellular Field.

Cabrera, who was one of the top bats on the free-agent market, said the decision to play for the White Sox was based on a variety of factors.

"It was a decision that I made with my family," Cabrera said through a translator. "I'm happy about the decision. My family is happy. I like the city and I like the ballpark and I like the White Sox."

Cabrera missed the final part of the 2012 season with San Francisco when he was suspended for 50 games for a positive test for artificial testosterone. But Hahn said he had no concern about bringing him in.

Major League Baseball's drug agreement "is set up in a way where there is specific punishment in place that he has served, and then you're subject to a heightened level of scrutiny which he has been able to perform under for the past two years," Hahn said, referring to additional testing given to players found to have violated the program.

"We're very confident that the level of play will continue going forward."

It was a homecoming of sorts for Samardzija, who was a White Sox fan when he was growing up in northwest Indiana. Samardzija also played college football for Notre Dame and spent the first 6 1/2 seasons of his major league career with the Cubs before he was traded to Oakland last summer.

"To be able to come here and play and be a part of it is really exciting," Samardzija said. "It feels like I came full circle with my professional career. Just excited to be here, and excited to take advantage of all the emotions and excitement I have and just let it all out on the field."

The addition of Samardzija gives the White Sox a strong 1-2 at the top of a rotation that includes lefty ace Chris Sale. The right-hander has made 33 starts and pitched more than 200 innings in each of the past two seasons.

Seeking organizational depth, the White Sox also were closing in on a minor league deal with veteran right-hander Brad Penny that would include an invitation to spring training. Penny was 2-1 with a 6.58 ERA in eight games with Miami last season.

Robertson agreed to a $46 million, four-year contract with Chicago after he saved 39 games for the New York Yankees in his only year in the closer role. The White Sox struggled to close out games in 2014, with Jake Petricka finishing with a team-high 14 saves.

Robertson and Cabrera were teammates with the Yankees when they won the World Series in 2009.

"I want to win again," Robertson said. "I want to see another parade and be a part of that excitement."


Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap


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