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Top pitchers on White Sox radar as Winter Meetings open

SAN DIEGO — So many things seem pointed in the right direction for the White Sox going into the Winter Meetings. Of course, they have nowhere to move but up after going 63-99 and finishing in last place in the AL Central during Rick Hahn’s first year as general manager and 73-89 and in fourth place in his second.

Another 10-win improvement in Hahn’s third year would put them in striking distance of postseason contention, and as long as they add to their offseason upgrade package that already includes designated hitter/first baseman Adam LaRoche and lefty reliever Zach Duke, that won’t seem farfetched.

As the Winter Meetings get rolling Monday morning at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the Sox are known to be tracking right-hander Jeff Samardzija in trade talks, and now according to the New York Post, are also targeting free agent closer David Robertson. A right-hander starter and bullpen help are the Sox’ two most pressing needs.

Here are three things to look for this week:

  1. How badly do the Sox want to win right now?

Samardzija, a northwest Indiana native, has one year left on his contract before he becomes a free agent, s he would arrive as a costly one year rental of sorts unless an extension can be worked out. His addition would give the Sox two top of the rotation starters with Chris Sale and would fit nicely between their other top lefty, Jose Quintana.

  1. The Sox and their closers.

In 2011 the Sox traded closer Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays for pitching prospect Nestor Molina. Last year they dealt closer Addison Reed for third base prospect Matt Davidson. With the Sox history of developing their own ninth-inning relievers and Robertson (3.08 ERA, 39 saves for the Yankees in 2014) seeking perhaps $50 million over four years, his signing would be a different sort of “didn’t see that one coming deal.” It doesn’t seem like a Rick Hahn kind of move — a Luke Gregorson signing for three years seems more his style – but stay tuned.

  1. The somewhat loose bonds in the Cuban connection.

When Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo and Adrian Nieto were all in the starting lineup in a game against the Red Sox last April, it marked the first time four Cuban-born players were penciled in together since the Indians did it in 1969. For 2015, it’s not out of the question that Abreu, whose transition to his first major league season was eased by the presence of the others, will be alone in that regard on Opening Day. Ramirez, and to a lesser degree Viciedo have been discussed in trade talks, and Nieto, taken in the Rule 5 Draft during the Winter Meetings last year, might benefit from a full season in the minors to accelerate his progress.

The A’s need a shortstop, and it’s possible Ramirez could be a trade chip in the Samardzija talks. The Sox, though, don’t have a major-league ready everyday shortstop in place to fill Ramirez’s shoes, and his offense would need to be compensated for elsewhere. From a value standpoint, two years of Ramirez at $10 million per for one year of Samardzija favors the A’s, so other pieces (prospects) may be in place. And the Sox would likely receive a compensatory draft pick in 2016, assuming Samardzija gets a qualifying off after the 2015 season.

Viciedo, who stands to earn about $4.5 million this season, has been a disappointment but has trade value because of his power. He hit 21 homers this year and belted 25 in 2012.