SAN DIEGO — You looked at the foundation pieces of the Chicago White Sox. You watched as ace Chris Sale finished third in American League Cy Young voting. You watched as Jose Abreu was chosen as the unanimous Rookie of the Year and finished fourth in AL MVP voting.

This is a team, you thought, that is not far away.

As Monday night bled into Tuesday morning, it became apparent the White Sox are thinking the exact same thing.

Chicago’s South Siders struck two stunning deals, agreeing to acquire starter Jeff Samardzija from Oakland and luring free-agent closer David Robertson for an eye-popping four years and $46 million. The deals, both confirmed by Bleacher Report sources, are expected to be announced sometime Tuesday at the earliest.

No wonder closed-mouthed White Sox club officials were walking the halls of the Grand Hyatt with grins flowing like the Chicago River.

The Sox confirmed the Samardzija deal Tuesday: Samardzija and right-hander Michael Ynoa to Chicago for right-hander Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley, first baseman Rangel Ravelo and infielder Marcus Semien. The Robertson signing will be announced later this week upon the completion of medicals.

“Jeff has been a target of ours for some time now,” Hahn said here Tuesday morning. “We’re absolutely thrilled.

“We think it puts us in position to be very competitive in 2015.”

Coupled with the signing of first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche for two years and $25 million last month, the Sox have now improved their lineup, their rotation and their bullpen in short order.

Suddenly, in an increasingly intriguing AL Central, there is every reason to believe the White Sox can—and will—contend in 2015.

In Sale and Samardzija, they’ve got a one-two punch atop their rotation that can stand up to anybody in the league (add lefty Jose Quintana, and that’s a killer top three). Sale—the praying mantis-thin lefty with deception and stuff as filthy, on his good days, as Randy Johnson’s—still doesn’t get the credit he deserves, except from the most important critics: rival hitters.

“We feel good about our rotation,” Hahn said. “One through three, we can stack up with anybody. Jon Danks, there’s a comfort level there. And Hector Noesi made some real nice strides.”

In Robertson, whose strikeouts-per-nine-innings was a ridiculous 13.4 last summer, they’ve got a knockout bullpen weapon. And don’t kid yourself: Strikeouts play huge in U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago’s launching pad of a home ballpark.

The Sox were crippled by their bullpen in 2014, which, according to FanGraphs, was the third-worst in the AL with a 4.38 ERA and was tagged for an MLB-high 32 losses.

Now you look at their bullpen, with Robertson handling the ninth innings, lefty Zach Duke (another acquisition this winter), and hard-throwing youngsters Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam, and you no longer see losses. You see possibilities.

Samardzija’s heavy sinker should fit perfectly into U.S. Cellular Field as well. As Hahn said, to pitch in that ballpark, “you have to have that kind of movement.”

“Listen, our dreams are to get back to the World Series and win the World Series,” White Sox Executive Vice President Kenny Williams said Monday, as the Sox were working feverishly toward the deals that rocked the winter meetings later that night. “We’ve accomplished some things very quickly here in the last few years to put back together what we think is a strong nucleus. And with a few pieces here or there, we’ll be back in the mix.”

Williams drew a large crowd during his visit to the press room Monday morning because of rampant rumors that the Toronto Blue Jays are interested in him as they search for a replacement for Paul Beeston, the Jays’ longtime president and chief executive officer.

Right now, it looks like Williams is staying put in Chicago.

And the White Sox will be something to see.

The reconstruction moved into high gear under Hahn last year when he traded for center fielder Adam Eaton after acquiring right fielder Avisail Garcia from the Detroit Tigers in a three-way deal at the July trade deadline in 2013.

Eaton’s athleticism gives the White Sox versatility and a different dimension from what had become a slow, plodding club a couple of years ago. Garcia has crazy power but missed most of 2014 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Abreu’s power is even more thunderous (36 homers, 107 RBI as a rookie), and LaRoche has hit 79 homers and 73 doubles over the past three seasons. LaRoche’s lefty bat also adds badly needed balance to the lineup.

This is a team that lost 89 games last summer thanks in no small part to a bullpen that blew 21 save opportunities, tied for third-highest in the AL. In New York, Robertson converted 39 of 44 saves while taking over for the retired Mariano Rivera.

In Robertson, the White Sox theoretically have purchased a lockdown closer for the next four seasons.

In Samardzija, the Sox have added a short-term co-ace who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season. The Sox hope to change that soon by signing him long-term.

“We acquired Jeff for one year and for the exclusive rights to talk to him for the next 10, 11 months,” said Hahn, who described Samardzija as thrilled during their telephone conversation after the deal.

Said Hahn: “Jeff did share this morning that this is a dream come true for him. He very much enjoys Chicago, and I think wearing our uniform resonates with him.” Samardzija, who grew up in nearby Valparaiso, Ind., played football at Notre Dame and spent the first six-and-a-half years of his career on Chicago’s North Side with the Cubs, has to be impressed with the Sox’s seize-the-moment mentality this winter.

Clearly, these are the moves of a team that not only is going all-in in ’15 but also expects to keep that window of opportunity open for the foreseeable future in a division that has gotten more fascinating by the day this winter.

The Cleveland Indians were another beneficiary of Oakland’s strip-down Monday, beefing up their lineup with the acquisition of slugging first baseman Brandon Moss. The Tigers, entering the sunset years with their current core (minus, almost assuredly, Max Scherzer), re-signed designated hitter Victor Martinez earlier this winter. And the AL champion Royals are about to lose ace James Shields to free agency and likely outfielder Nori Aoki.

Yes, the White Sox are in the right place making the right moves at the right time. It’s easy to love the things they’re doing and the aggressive attitude that is fueling them.

“We’re not trying to send any messages in December,” Hahn said. “It’s more about what we do during the summer months and in the fall.

“But we do believe that you’re not going to get a break when you come through Chicago.”


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