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White Sox’ GM will have ready response for ‘cheapness’ question

General manager Rick Hahn knows he’ll hear it if the White Sox don’t sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.

And he says he’ll be ready if it’s said the Sox’ financial offer wasn’t sufficient.

“Hopefully, you never get to ask me that ‘cheapness’ question, but if they wind up signing elsewhere, I’ll be ready for your question,’’ Hahn said. “I’ll respond to it when it becomes reality. Right now, it’s hypothetical.’’

Hahn did rule out, to no one’s surprise, signing both stars. A fan who probably thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask inquired if that was even possible.

White Sox senior vice president and general manager Rick Hahn responds to a question during the baseball team's convention Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Chicago. (AP)

“Having two commitments of the magnitude that they’re going to require on the same roster, it probably limits your flexibility,’’ Hahn said. “It might not be the strongest move for us long term.”

But the Sox will, “at the very least, go down swinging [on one] if we don’t convert,’’ Hahn promised.

Meanwhile, with Machado viewed as their best shot to sign, the Sox’ chances don’t seem to be getting better as the clock ticks. He hasn’t responded in kind to their offer, and now the Padres reportedly are in the mix with the Sox and Phillies.

“It’s certainly possible,’’ Hahn said of the Padres reports. “It’s not a surprise. And who knows if it’s a jump-in or something that has been in place for a long time.’’

Looking to go deep

The trend of managers going to the bullpen at the drop of a hat, with starters working fewer innings, doesn’t sit well with pitching coach Don Cooper. Cooper, who had four starters throw complete games in succession during the 2005 postseason, says he’s aware of data showing pitchers’ effectiveness often sliding the third time through the lineup, but he still wants his guys to go deep into games.

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“I pay attention to all of the sabermetrics, but that being said, the starter’s job description as long as I’m here is not going to change,’’ Cooper said. “The job description that I put out, starters are six-plus. That’s why you get paid the money. That’s why starters get paid more than relievers because you’re taking more of the work.”

This and that

Dylan Covey and lefty Manny Banuelos are the top contenders for the fifth starter spot behind Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, Ivan Nova and Lucas Giolito, Hahn said.

† Hahn said right-hander Dane Dunning would’ve been in the conversation for a fifth starter spot if not for the elbow injury he suffered last season at Class AA Birmingham. Dunning is said to be recovering well but was not invited to major-league camp.

“We’re easing him back in; we expect him to be part of that Birmingham rotation,’’ Hahn said.

† Two prospects are rated ahead of Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez. One is shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., whom the Sox traded to get James Shields in 2016. Few faulted the Sox for the trade at the time, but Tatis’ star has risen substantially. Hahn poked fun at himself, making a passing reference to Tatis, “who some jackass traded,” during a question-and-answer session.

† Asked what he’s most happy about this offseason, Hahn said, “It’s not over yet. There are three or four potential acquisitions we are working on.”

† Giolito, acquired with Dunning and Lopez in the Adam Eaton trade, led the Sox with 10 wins and showed flashes of promise but led the American League with 90 walks in 173„ innings. His 6.13 ERA reflected his control problems, Cooper said.

“He’s got to throw a lot more strikes,’’ Cooper said. “He self-destructed early too much. He walked way too many guys.’’