What to watch for from White Sox at Winter Meetings

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Jose Abreu (left) and Avisail Garcia are two of White Sox GM Rick Hahn’s most valuable trade chips. (Getty Images)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The White Sox don’t figure to make a big splash at the Winter Meetings, but you never can count them out. Their recent record of making news in December can’t be overlooked.

The earth-moving landings of the two biggest offseason prizes, Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton, should start the dominoes falling and might heighten the demand for Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. Stay tuned.

In the second year of a rebuild that kicked into high gear with the trades of left-hander Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton at the 2016 meetings, general manager Rick Hahn isn’t armed with the big chips he brought with him last year. The Sox’ needs fall more into the category of patchwork-variety pitching.

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That said, they recently signed 30-year-old catcher Welington Castillo for two years with an option for a third (2020), backing Hahn’s assertion that he’s willing to cover short- and long-term needs.

Here are some factors to consider while watching Hahn and vice president Ken Williams operate near Disney World beginning Monday:

The big prize

The Sox aren’t pursuing one, but they have one who might be near the top of another team’s wish list in Abreu, a proven, consistent power hitter during his four seasons in the majors.

Having missed out on Stanton, teams such as the Cardinals and Giants — and perhaps the Red Sox — might be inclined to make an offer the Sox can’t resist. The Sox love everything about Abreu — his work ethic, performance and leadership, to name three things — but if he’s not signed to an extension, he’ll be a soon-to-be 33-year-old free agent after two more seasons. So there are reasons to consider parting ways with him, as well as reasons to consider keeping him. A decision depends on the return.

Keep your eye on . . .

The bullpen market. The Sox need more relievers after depleting their pen with trades for prospects last summer. Their closer as of today is Juan Minaya.

‘‘Certainly, the pitching staff does need reinforcements after the moves we made last summer,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘We are going to remain diligent in that area. If other opportunities come to put us in better position for the long term, we will act accordingly.’’

Dollars and sense

The Sox have no nagging big-money contracts to unload, although right-hander James Shields will make $21 million in the final season of his contract, $10 million of which will be paid by the Padres. That still a pricey salary to pay for an innings-eater, but Shields’ value as a mentor and veteran presence on a young starting staff eases the sting a bit.

Hahn will operate with a comfortable level of financial freedom. Abreu — who opted into arbitration for the final two years of his contract — is projected to top the Sox’ payroll at $17.9 million, according to MLBTradeRumors.

Deal or no deal?

After Abreu, right fielder Avisail Garcia, infielder Yolmer Sanchez and outfielder-infielder Leury Garcia have the most value among those considered tradable.

X-factor

What will Avisail Garcia become? At 26, the multitalented outfielder broke out with a .330 season and is viewed either as a star-in-the-making or as a one-year wonder who should be sold high. Like Abreu, he is under team control for two more years and might fetch an inviting return.

Bold prediction

The Sox won’t stand still in this phase of their rebuild. An off-the-radar move wouldn’t be surprising.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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