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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Let the offseason begin.
Indeed, it already has for the White Sox, who have been stewing in their winter plans since the earliest days of October, when their 101-loss season, one of the worst in franchise history, came to a merciful end.
Already, first-year general manager Chris Getz has moved on from Tim Anderson and Liam Hendriks and hired a slew of new additions to Pedro Grifol’s coaching staff. But what seems to be a radical makeover for the organization has only just started, and there’s an entire offseason worth of moves to make — especially if Getz is going to make significant strides in filling the many holes on this roster.
While we don’t have an overly specific game plan for what Getz and his new-look front office hope to do — and who they hope to acquire — this winter, we know plenty more about what the 2024 team could look like than we did two days ago thanks to Getz’s hourlong media session Tuesday at the GM meetings in Arizona.
After sifting through it several times more, here’s what we learned about the White Sox and their immediate future out in the desert.
White Sox will prioritize defense this winter, perhaps at expense of offense
Getz made it abundantly clear that improving the White Sox defensively is at the top of his to-do list this offseason, an area that needs obvious improvement after the team’s many mistakes had them among the game’s worst defensive clubs in recent seasons.
“I’d really like to focus on our defense. That’s going to be a large focus of us this offseason,” Getz said. “I want it to be an attractive place where pitchers want to pitch. We’ll set out to do that.
“We’ve made too many mistakes through the years. When certain plays aren’t being made, it’s a traumatic feeling for a team, it’s a traumatic feeling for pitchers. I really want to just settle back down so pitchers are comfortable attacking the zone and outs are made where they are supposed to be made.”
While declining Anderson’s option could help in that department, the team is now without a leadoff hitter. Getz, though, pointed to finding a new leadoff hitter as far less a priority than improving defensively.
“We are focusing more on the defensive side,” he said. “If someone comes aboard we feel can hit at the top of the lineup, that’s certainly a bonus. But with prioritizing the defensive side, that’s the focus, and we’ll put together a lineup to help us win that night.”
There is no set number for a White Sox payroll in 2024
As other teams in the division might be zeroing in on a specific goal when it comes to their 2024 payroll, Getz said the White Sox are not chasing a specific number.
There’s plenty of speculation that a potentially overwhelming list of holes on the roster, a much discussed decrease in attendance and a possible focus on contention in 2025 and beyond could shrink the team’s payroll for the upcoming season.
But at least publicly, Getz and the White Sox are keeping their options open.
“We want to identify players that we feel like can help us, both short-term and long-term, and when those players come our way, then we’ll make a decision,” Getz said. “Obviously, there’s a financial component to it that Jerry (Reinsdorf) gets involved in, and we’ll continue to have those conversations. There is no set number right now.
“We’re going to chip away. We’re not operating with one number, so to speak. We’ve got to be open-minded on how we’re going to put this team together. And whether that be through trade acquisitions or free agents or a combination of both, we’re open to that.”
White Sox will consider trades of Dylan Cease, Eloy Jiménez
Getz reaffirmed what he said in his introductory press conference in August, that no player on the roster is untouchable as he attempts to remake the organization.
That includes Cease and Jiménez, who were acquired in the final of Rick Hahn’s three rebuild-launching trades in 2017. If it seems like the start of another rebuilding cycle, certainly trading away established players gives off that vibe. But at least in the case of Cease, Getz pointed to any return package needing to help address the current starting-pitching need, which would only get bigger if Cease were to be dealt.
“Dylan, obviously, is an established major league starter, he’s got front-end ability, and there isn’t a team that wouldn’t want Dylan Cease on their roster. And Eloy is a power bat that any lineup would benefit from having. Those types of moves are under consideration, they are,” Getz said. “Once again, if we feel like we can multiply or strengthen our group both presently and in the future, then we’re going to look at that.
“(Any trade of Cease would have) to make sense. We’ve got a rotation that needs to fill out. We’ve got some young arms in our system that are maturing. I don’t want to rush them to the major leagues. I think that’s unfair to them and unfair to the White Sox.
“Certainly any return for any player — if we’re trying to address the pitching needs that we have — it needs to make sense. So in any deal, filling out the rotation is certainly at the forefront.”
Could the White Sox trade Luis Robert Jr.?
Getz said that moving currently established players in an effort to better the team’s long-term health is under consideration, though he was specifically responding to a question about Cease and Jiménez in that moment.
But what about Robert, the team’s best player who just turned in an MVP-caliber 2023 campaign? Robert, given his long period of team control and status as one of the game’s top talents, brings a different discussion, but ultimately Getz’s approach to considering such a hypothetical move remains the same as it does with others.
“Luis Robert is one of the brightest stars in the game,” Getz said. “It’s not something we’re being proactive on. If there is something that makes sense, so be it, but Luis Robert is a guy you build around.
“I don’t want to be short-sighted or closed-minded in any way. If there is a way to help our ballclub both now and in the future, we have to consider that.”
In other words, the White Sox don’t want to move Robert, but never say never.
Second-base, right-field fixes could come from outside organization
While Colson Montgomery’s promise means the White Sox can make long-term plans for their future at shortstop, that ability doesn’t exist at second base or in right field. Lenyn Sosa and Oscar Colás failed to impress at those positions last season, and with vacancies in both places, Getz might look elsewhere, free agency or via trades, to fill holes.
“We don’t have anyone internally that is an obvious choice at any of those positions right now,” Getz said. “So if that means we look at the free-agent market or working out a trade to help plug those holes, you do that.
“We’re very open-minded. We’ve got some players that are moving in our system, but we certainly want that to take a natural course. We don’t want to force anything.”
White Sox are open to bringing Tim Anderson, Liam Hendriks back
It might not be terribly likely — and it doesn’t seem like Getz is going to be aggressive about it — but there is a chance, however slight, that the book might not be closed on Anderson and Hendriks’ careers with the White Sox, even after the team declined club options on the two players last weekend.
“We are open to bring TA back, but he’s earned the right to see if there is a better opportunity for him,” Getz said. “He’s part of the White Sox family. I want TA to go out there and do well, I really genuinely do. If that’s with someone else, I’ll be rooting for him. We’ll see where the offseason goes for him.
“And just like TA, if there’s a situation that makes sense for both of us, we’d certainly welcome Liam back, as well. … I think that’s more of an ongoing conversation, not something we’re going to go jump out and address right away.”
Tony La Russa is still part of the White Sox
Despite his second stint as the South Side skipper coming to an end due to health reasons in the final month of the 2022 campaign, La Russa is still involved with the team.
New farm director Paul Janish revealed that La Russa has been part of front-office meetings, and Getz said that the Hall of Famer and three-time World Series winning manager is indeed serving in an advisory role.
“Tony is advising. He’s in an advisory position,” Getz said. “That type of experience is invaluable, (and) not only in the team-building aspect, with so many little pieces that go into a major league club. There is going to be mentoring with some of our minor league coaches and our players, as well. He’s an asset. I’m going to take advantage of him.
“Tony is going to be around. We’re going to use him as a resource.”
Though La Russa was not a team employee when it was reported he was advising good friend Reinsdorf during the front-office changes last summer, a team spokesperson described La Russa as a “senior adviser” Tuesday.
Yoán Moncada could see time at different positions, if necessary
While the situation in which he would be doing so was not made entirely clear, Moncada could find playing time elsewhere besides just third base.
Asked if the White Sox would consider moving Moncada, a talented defensive third baseman, back to second base if the opportunity to add a third baseman to the lineup presented itself, Getz suggested that Moncada not only can but might play a host of different positions in 2024.
“I think he is capable of playing different positions,” Getz said. “He’s played some second base with us. I think he’s a better third baseman than second baseman. That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some days where perhaps he goes over to second base or plays first base and perhaps even the outfield. We’ll do what’s best for our club.
“He’s a very good athlete, he is. And if that means we need to have Yoán be more versatile to help our lineup on a nightly basis, you do that.”
Given Getz’s emphasis on defensive improvement, it was odd to hear him suggest a player might again play out of position, something that contributed to the White Sox’ defensive struggles in recent seasons.
Colson Montgomery could have shot at Opening Day roster spot
With Anderson jettisoned, the future is cleared for Montgomery, the White Sox’ top-ranked prospect, to fill the void at shortstop.
It remains to be seen exactly when that will happen, but it would make sense for Montgomery to get an invite to big league camp come the spring. He could even have an opportunity to compete for the shortstop job, but that’s probably putting the cart before the horse, as he played just 37 games at the Double-A level last season.
“He’s a guy that is very unique and has the ability to be a special player at the major league level,” Getz said. “I don’t want to have the expectation for Colson to think he’s going to be our Opening Day shortstop, but I don’t want to cap anything for him, either, because it’s important for him to stay motivated and be ready to go in spring training because who knows how 2024 unravels for him.”
Getz affirmed that if Montgomery doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he’s likely to begin the 2024 campaign at Triple-A Charlotte.
Gregory Santos is healing, but White Sox don’t have set closer yet
Santos was given the White Sox’ closer job late last season, and with Hendriks’ future up in the air even then, it was a chance at earning that job for 2024. But Santos struggled over his final few appearances and then ended the season on the injured list with a flexor strain.
According to Getz, Santos’ health is coming along.
“Everything’s been really positive with how he’s feeling, how he’s healing,” Getz said. “All the testing has been an indication that he should be on track to come back. He had a tremendous year for us. It was a great acquisition last offseason. So it would be great to have Gregory back doing what he was doing last year.”
But a healthy Santos doesn’t automatically cross closer off Getz’s to-do list for this winter. It might not end in Getz acquiring someone specifically for the job, but it seems like a position that will have to be won during the spring.
“We’ve got a couple of different options,” Getz said. “It’s a little premature to label anyone a closer in early November. More than anything, we’ve got to put together a sound starting staff, and certainly our relievers will come together at the right time.”
White Sox looking to improve at catcher past Korey Lee
Lee might wind up the White Sox’ No. 1 catcher after impressing the coaching staff in a month’s worth of big league action last season, but Getz and his front office will still need to address the position in some regard.
Whether that means Lee will top the depth chart or be a backup remains to be seen. Even after picking up just five major league hits last season, Lee will get playing time. But with another catching spot open, look for it to be something the team adds this winter.
“There were a lot of positives. I know Pedro and the staff were really happy with Korey and the potential he brings to the table,” Getz said. “We’ll look at ways to strengthen that position to allow him to feel like we’re putting him in a position to succeed. He’s certainly going to get his opportunities at the major league level.
“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to look to improve the position as a whole.”
Nick Nastrini will get a shot at a spot in the big league rotation
Nastrini was one of several promising pitching prospects the White Sox acquired by dealing away veterans at the trade deadline, and he looks as if he’ll be the first of them to make some noise at the big league level.
The White Sox promoted Nastrini to Triple-A at the end of last season, and while he could certainly end up needing more time in the minors, Getz said he and Jordan Leasure — the reliever acquired in the same deal with the Dodgers — will have the opportunity to compete for roster spots in the spring. While Leasure could certainly make a difference in the bullpen, Nastrini getting that shot is of greater interest, considering the White Sox’ dire need in the starting rotation.
“Both those guys will compete for spots in spring training,” Getz said. “Leasure has been out here in the (Arizona) Fall League and arguably the best reliever here. It’s been really impressive. He’s going to prepare to make the team out of the club, and Nick can do the same. … We’re not going to shy away from an arm just because he hasn’t pitched in a major league game yet.”
As for those other young pitchers — Jake Eder, Ky Bush and guys who were in the system prior to this year’s deadline deals — it’s possible they could make their way to the bigs in 2024, too, but Getz wasn’t ready to make the type of projection he did in regards to Nastrini.
“I hate to cap anyone,” Getz said. “Nastrini is the furthest along in that group. In an ideal world, you’re looking at guys starting at the upper level of the minor leagues. But Nick is one we feel isn’t too far off from helping.”
Oscar Colás unlikely to be part of big league roster at start of 2024
A year ago, Hahn foreshadowed the team leaning on Colás to fill a hole in right field, and after a good spring, Colás won that job. But he was quickly exposed at the major league level, sent down at the end of April and again late in the season after repeated mistakes in the field and on the bases, in addition to struggling at the plate.
The White Sox don’t seem intent on making that same mistake again, and it sounds as if Colás — who the team is far from giving up on — will spend more time in the minor leagues.
“Obviously the talent remains,” Getz said. “Everyone has seen the tools and what he’s capable of doing. He’s got to find a way to play more under control, understand how pitchers are attacking him.
“He’s probably best fit in the minor leagues, for the time being, and using the experience he had at the major league level to help him in the future. But we certainly haven’t given up on Oscar, just because you don’t give up on talent like that.”
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