SAN DIEGO — The Chicago White Sox are making the biggest moves at the winter meetings, trying to regain relevance in the AL Central after losing 188 games over two seasons.
Hours after reaching a $46 million, four-year deal with closer David Robertson, Chicago acquired starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija from the Oakland Athletics as part of a six-player trade.
“In our mind we’re not finished yet,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday. “We still know we have some other areas we need to improve and we’re hopeful that in the coming days, and if not the coming days, then the coming weeks, we’ll be able to fill a couple more voids in our roster.”
While Jon Lester’s talks on the free-agent market still seemed to be creating a logjam for other starting pitchers, the Chicago teams were busy in the trade mart.
In the day’s other significant swap, the Arizona Diamondbacks sent All-Star catcher Miguel Montero, who is owed $40 million over the next three seasons, to the Chicago Cubs for a pair of prospects.
Coming off consecutive playoff appearances that followed a 20-year drought, the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to a $39 million, three-year deal to keep left-hander Francisco Liriano. And Atlanta agreed to a one-year deal with free-agent infielder Alberto Callaspo.
The deals for Robertson, Liriano and Callaspo were disclosed by people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been announced.
Lester has been sought by Boston, the Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
“If it happens tomorrow, it happens tomorrow. If happens next week, it happens next week. If it happens in January, it happens in January,” Boston general manager Ben Cherington said. “We’re not working in sequential order. We are aware of all the possibilities. We have to be aware of the bigger stuff because of the financial implications, but there’s all sorts of other stuff we are working on.”
The White Sox boosted their rotation by acquiring Samardzija, who played football for Notre Dame and pitched for the Cubs.
“Being a Chicago guy, that’s one of the craziest things I’ve thought about,” he said after Oakland dealt him to Chicago’s South Side. “I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Now, do I really have to go get my cleats on and go play for the Bears?’ If I could skate, maybe the ‘Hawks. My jumper’s garbage, so the Bulls are out of the question.”
Trading an All-Star for the third time in less than two weeks, the Athletics sent Samardzija and right-hander Michael Ynoa for right-hander Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley and first baseman Rangel Ravelo and infielder Marcus Semien.
An All-America wide receiver with the Fighting Irish, Samardzija was 31-42 with a 3.97 ERA for the Chicago Cubs from 2008 until July 5, when he was traded to the A’s. He went 5-6 with a 3.14 ERA for Oakland.
Samardzija, a right-hander who turns 30 on Jan. 23, made $5,345,000 this year and is eligible for salary arbitration. He can become a free agent after the 2015 season.
“We’re going to make every effort to make this a long-term relationship,” Hahn said. “We felt that this was a premium starter who fit, not just in terms of how he fit in our rotation, but how he fit in our clubhouse.”
Samardzija wasn’t so sure he would want to miss free agency.
“You’re so close to it, you really want to experience it,” he maintained. “But like I said before, when the situation’s right, it’s right. When the numbers are right, they’re right.”
Earlier in the offseason, Chicago agreed to a $25 million, two-year contract with first baseman Adam LaRoche and a $15 million, three-year deal with left-hander Zach Duke.
Samardzija joins a rotation that includes Chris Sale, who finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting, and Joel Quintana.
“It’s a gutsy move,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You look around at our division, and you see the starting pitchers out there, of what it takes to make it in your division of facing them all the time, and we feel like that’s something we had to do.”