CHICAGO -- If there was a 2012 wish list Robin Ventura could put together for his White Sox, here's a snippet as to how it would look.
"Obviously, I would love to be able to hand the ball to John Danks 30-plus times and Gavin Floyd the same thing and have Carlos [Quentin] in right," said Ventura during a Thursday afternoon conference call. "It's kind of a wish list, but it's not always going to be able to happen.
"I think it will be decided [at the Winter Meetings]. I've kept in contact with [White Sox general manager] Kenny (Williams) when different things come up. And I mean, I don't think he knows. I don't know. That's the interesting part about going there."
Ventura's first Winter Meetings as manager, during which he will meet with the media in his Tuesday afternoon interview slot at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, could be one of the most active four days for the White Sox in recent memory. The underachieving 2011 squad came on the heels of a famous "all-in" campaign, which raised the White Sox payroll to a franchise-record $127 million.
With the team's on-field shortcomings and the dip in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field to a shade over 2,000,000, the White Sox are expected to go through a modified rebuilding phase. That desire to go young most likely won't include the moving of designated hitter Adam Dunn, center fielder Alex Rios or starting pitcher Jake Peavy, who are owed a combined $104.5 million over a total of seven years -- not including buyouts.
Instead, the focus falls upon Danks and Quentin, who both are in their last year of arbitration eligibility, and Floyd, who has one year plus an option left on a four-year deal. Call Ventura an optimist because he isn't certain that all or any of this group will be working for another team when his first managerial Spring Training begins in February.
"Those moves are possible, but not guaranteed," Ventura said. "It's one thing to have the names out there and say you are going to trade them and it's another thing to actually do it. We all realize they have value and how good they are."
That optimism carried over to Mark Buehrle, the organizational staple and one of the steadiest performers on the field and steadiest leaders in the clubhouse over the past 11 years. As each day passes and a new team expresses serious interest in the free-agent southpaw, the chance for his return to the South Side of Chicago appears more and more remote.
While Ventura certainly understands the 32-year-old Buehrle has earned the enviable position he is in, the new skipper still believes the negotiations eventually could bring Buehrle back. Ventura also understands the problems of facing his first run as a manager without the ever-steady Buehrle.
"He's a great pitcher, a great person, a great teammate: really everything," said Ventura of Buehrle, who has made at least 30 starts, thrown at least 200 innings and won in double digits for each of the last 11 seasons. "It's not always good here in your first year, really the guy that has been most the consistent player, the most consistent pitcher for them, he might not be back.
"I'm not happy about that necessarily. but understand the game and the way it works. Would I love to have him? Yeah. But he deserves by doing well to be in this position and to have everyone want him on their team."
As for the players almost certain to be part of the 2012 White Sox, Ventura praised Alejandro De Aza's preparation and how he went about his business at the Minor League and Major League level in 2011. Stating that De Aza was doing "big league things," the young outfielder looks to be in line for a prominent role even if Quentin returns.
Dunn has been working out, as told to Ventura by Williams and White Sox director of conditioning Allen Thomas. But Ventura has not been in contact with the designated hitter, who endured a tough season in his White Sox debut.
"I don't feel the need to call him up and give him a pep talk," said Ventura of Dunn. "He's ready to go, motivated, and when we get closer, I'll call him. Right now, I'd rather have him not worry about baseball. Most guys start in January everywhere."
Prior to his trip to Dallas for Monday's opening day, Ventura will stop at his Oklahoma State alma mater in Stillwater for Saturday's Bedlam Brawl against Oklahoma. Ventura quipped Thursday that game has his full worries right now.
In all honesty, there's not much Ventura can figure out about his 2012 at this point. He bumped into third baseman Brent Morel in California, but really hasn't talked to many players. Those conversations can come after next Thursday, when a much sharper vision of Ventura's wish list should be in focus.
"To go over personnel doesn't make sense when we don't know who is going to be there," Ventura said. "Most of it is going to be handled by [Williams]. We talk, believe me, we talk. I think that's where it gets difficult. He wants these guys, too.
"There's a business side of the game when it's not always fun when a season like last year happens. These players are wanted by other teams, and it's nice they are calling and asking about our players. It means you have good players.
"Hopefully we have a lot of them back," Ventura said. "But if there's a time in Dallas when we talk about certain people, and it's worth making that move, I will definitely voice an opinion."