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Cubs and White Sox set for GM meetings

Cubs and White Sox could go in different directions at the general managers' meetings.

Add and subtract.

That's how the Cubs and White Sox, respectively, could improve when they accelerate talks with agents and officials from other teams starting Monday at baseball's general managers' meetings in Phoenix.

Although GM Jed Hoyer has downplayed the suggestion the Cubs are embarking on a "supercharged offseason,'' they're aligned financially to land two marquee free agents and they recently added manager Joe Maddon as a recruiting tool.

As for the Sox, they hold a valuable trade chip in Silver Slugger shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who will earn $10 million in the final year of his contract and possesses Gold Glove-caliber range. Trading Ramirez could pave the way for 2013 first-round draft pick and former No. 1 Tim Anderson in 2016 while freeing up money to address more pressing needs.

Here are some positions of interest on both sides of town.

Starting pitching

The Cubs have made no secret of plans to pursue impact pitching in a free-agent pool that includes left-hander Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields. If they earmark more money for catcher Russell Martin, they could consider a trade for Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, who will earn $90 million over the next four seasons.

The Sox could look for a right-handed starter to help balance a left-handed-heavy rotation of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks and Carlos Rodon (sometime in 2015). Free agent Jason Hammel is intriguing according to one team source.

Relief pitching

The Sox were interested in the Mets' Bobby Parnell dating back to the fall of 2006 before they traded for Gavin Floyd. Parnell might not be ready until after opening day because of reconstructive elbow surgery, but the Mets, who need a shortstop, have other late-inning relievers that can help the Sox.

The maturity of the Cubs' young bullpen was one of their encouraging developments, but President Theo Epstein is wary of the mercurial nature of relievers

Catcher

Martin sets the tone for the Cubs' offseason plans. If acquired, he would bolster the Cubs' defense, strengthen the pitching staff with his game-calling and add offensive protection behind Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.

If Martin signs elsewhere, the Cubs could look to add a left-handed hitter like A.J. Pierzynski to share duties with Welington Castillo or opt for Rafael Lopez as a backup.

One scout who follows the Sox believes they should look for an upgrade at catcher, but a healthy Tyler Flowers is expected to improve on his 15 home runs, 50 RBIs and .241 average.

Outfield

The Sox's defense in left field was horrific, but Dayan Viciedo presents an interesting puzzle because of his 60 homers in three seasons and the fact he won't become a free agent until 2018.

"Nobody ever has the genie or that magic bottle in their hand to say when somebody is going to completely figure it out," Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson said. "Some do and some don't. But I'll tell you what — he has a lot of want in him to get better."

Viciedo, 25, could better serve as a designated hitter and occasional fill-in for Jose Abreu at first base. But the Sox need an adequate blend of defense and offensive production in left if Viciedo is traded or becomes the DH.

The Cubs are looking to add a run-producing outfielder, but one could be acquired later as catching and starting pitching appear to be more pressing needs. Free agents Jonny Gomes and Chris Denorfia could emerge as options.

Third base

The shortage at this position is one reason free agent Pablo Sandoval could get a contract of at least five years.

Arbitration-eligible Luis Valbuena's stock figures to soar, but Cubs slugger Kris Bryant has yet to play a game in the majors.

"You don't want to hold back, but you want to look at the entire 3 1/2 months," Hoyer said of the offseason. "There are going to be some good deals that come late in the winter. That's probably not going to change and you don't want to eliminate yourself from that market."

mgonzales@tribune.com

Twitter @MDGonzales

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