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Time is now for White Sox to be aggressive, Williams says

LAS VEGAS — Enough already, White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams said. Losing stinks.

It’s time to move forward.

Talking on an uneventful first day of the winter meetings at Mandalay Bay, Williams acknowledged that, in the third year of the rebuild, it’s time to be aggressive.

And spend?

White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams. Chicago Sun-Times)

“It goes hand in hand sometimes,’’ Williams said. “But we’ve prepared for this. This is not by accident that we’re in a better position to do some things in a more aggressive way. We’ve prepared for this, and that was part of our plan all along. We knew that we would get here, and it may be a year too early, but the opportunities that exist exist this year.”

By prepared, Williams was alluding to the payroll obligations the Sox have allowed to dwindle over the last few years. The Sox have four players on the books for next season for about $15 million before adding arbitration-eligible and pre-arbitration players. Asked if it’s time to be more aggressive in the pursuit of talent, Williams answered with an emphatic, “Yes.”

“Yes, it is time now,’’ he said. “The conversations in the room are very different this year. We’ve got our eye toward getting better.”

The Sox haven’t had a winning record in the last six seasons and haven’t been to the postseason since 2008. Winning matters because it creates a winning culture and puts money in the coffers from ticket sales for needed revenues to help improve the team.

“It’s been tough on our fans, tough on us,’’ Williams said.

The Sox are known to be in the sweepstakes for free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper, who has reportedly turned down a $300 million, 10-year offer from the Nationals. Just how far they would go to outbid another club for Harper, who is represented by Scott Boars, is unknown. And they are known to have more than marginal interest in third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, the other expensive young superstar on the market, who is represented by Dan Lozano.

There is a growing expectation Harper, who met with the Sox in November, and Machado, who reportedly wants to meet with interested teams in their respective cities, won’t sign till after the meetings.

Besides looking at those big-ticket items that fit their long-range plans, the Sox are also looking to add more immediate needs, such as starting pitching, bullpen help and another catcher.

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“We’ve been engaged in conversations,’’ Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Today was a little more on the free-agent side than the trade side, but there has been a mix of both. It’s standard this time of year.’’

What isn’t standard is the Sox signing free agents of this magnitude. But those who are close to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf say he wants another title to go with the 2005 World Series championship, and the spending part at this juncture in the rebuild is all part of the long-range plan.

“Although I think there’s some potential skepticism that it might be a year too soon, perhaps be pushing it, we’re very mindful of that,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘We also want to balance the fact that there are some unique opportunities in the market.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to just look for any way to make some sort of splash. It has to fit with [our] long-term vision.’’

Williams has never been a patient one, so he can’t wait to put the bad years “in our rearview mirror.”

“Listen, the closer we get to our young players coming up and starting to have an impact, the more exciting it gets, the more light at the end of the tunnel, for sure,’’ he said.