The White Sox have a new present.
So what does it mean for their future?
Jerry Reinsdorf took the shocking action of making the era of Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn the past about two weeks ago, and already their successor is in place, Chris Getz introduced as the White Sox’ new general manager Thursday.
Reinsdorf commanded all the headlines, taking the rare step, for him, of speaking with the media, talking with team beat writers, including CHGO, for 25 minutes prior to Getz’s introductory press conference. He explained his reasoning for hiring Getz, shared his thoughts on the team and its new direction and managed to reinforce many assumptions that fans and media types had about the way he prefers to operate his team.
Unsurprisingly, that didn’t sit well with many fans, already overly frustrated by the team’s poor performance the past two seasons.
But while answers always yield new questions, we are starting to see how the White Sox might start working under Getz’s leadership and where the franchise could be heading in 2024 and beyond.
Will Chris Getz be the change White Sox need in front office?
Fan reaction to Getz’s hiring has been generally negative. That has mostly been directed at Reinsdorf, of course, for admitting to going through no real search and interviewing no outside candidates when looking to find a successor to Williams and Hahn, who worked atop the team’s baseball department for more than two decades.
While Reinsdorf came to the conclusion, somewhat begrudgingly, that someone besides Williams and Hahn needed to be running things, he literally picked the next person down on the org chart rather than conduct a sweeping search across baseball for someone with fresh perspectives and fresh ideas on how the organization should be run.
That has fans seeing no real change between the previous regime and the new one, and the typical celebratory atmosphere of a team going in a different direction when a new leader steps in does not exist surrounding the White Sox, at least on the outside. Getz received the same treatment from fans on his first day as Hahn did on his last, a very strange situation.
Though he’s full of “White Sox DNA,” it should be obvious that Getz is no mere clone of the two men who came before him, and surely he will have different ways of doing things.
“I am not naive to the expectation that things need to change,” Getz said in his introductory press conference. “To that I will say the fans deserve different, I am different, we will be different.”
But will he be different enough?
“Just like any leader of an organization, you’re shaped by your experiences. I’m a recent player, was an executive in another organization, and obviously I’ve got my experiences here,” Getz said. “You learn through those experiences, and that’s going to shape me in the leadership style I’m going to have.
“I realize that there is skepticism, I do. I am an internal hire and I’ve got to bear that burden, and this is my job to go out there and prove otherwise.”
Reinsdorf’s reaction to the same question likely raised even more alarm bells for those wondering why sweeping front-office change didn’t come sooner, an answer that basically said that the myriad problems throughout the organization weren’t Getz’s doing, rather than providing an illustration of what sort of newness he’s bringing to the gig.
“He has his own ideas about what needs to be done,” Reinsdorf said. “Chris has been responsible for the minor leagues, he hasn’t been responsible for the major leagues. His job involved taking players who were handed to him and making them better. He had no responsibility in acquiring the players he had to work with.
“It’s been kind of quiet, but we made a change in the scouting director a few years ago because we felt, through the draft, we weren’t getting the players we wanted to get. We made a change a few years ago. The players coming in under the new scouting director are an awful lot better than we’ve seen in the past.”
Blaming other parts of the front office that Getz has been a part of for seven years was no way to start changing hearts and minds, if there was ever a way to do that.
And so Getz, as he admitted, has his own job to do to convince fans that he is different, that he will run this team a different way than the ways of the past, ways that dragged this team to the low point it’s at right now.
Will White Sox compete for AL Central, more in 2024?
Hahn said at the trade deadline that contention in 2024 was “viable,” citing that the White Sox play in the perennially unimpressive AL Central as a big reason why. Indeed, the division’s top teams rarely seem unbeatable, and both Reinsdorf and Getz brought up the sorry state of the Central on Thursday, with Getz going as far to call it “the elephant in the room.”
But more telling about a seeming intention to field a competitive team next season were Reinsdorf’s comments describing why he picked Getz in the first place. The chairman placed an emphasis on speed in his decision, the speed in which Getz, as compared to an outside hire, could get the White Sox back to the postseason.
“One of the things I owe the fans is to get better as fast as we can possibly get better. Speed is of the essence. I don’t want this to be a long-term proposition,” Reinsdorf said. “When I started thinking about the speed that I owe the fans, I realized that if you bring in somebody from the outside, it’s going to take him a year. He’s going to have to evaluate everybody in the organization. I could bring Branch Rickey in, if he was available, and he’d have to evaluate everybody. So you lose a year.
“Here I had somebody inside who was very, very competitive, and it might even be the guy I would select if I had to talk to all these other guys. So I came to the conclusion that if I’ve got a guy inside who can do the job, why not? Why not do it inside and save a year? And that’s basically how I got to Chris.”
If speed is that important to the 87-year-old Reinsdorf, who was adamant against the sort of lengthy rebuild that crumbled under Hahn’s watch, it would figure that his desire is to try to compete in 2024.
“Everybody talks about when you build a building, the foundation comes first. We’ve got a foundation here,” Reinsdorf said. “We’re not going to take the guys that we have now and clean out and start over again. We’re definitely not going to do that.”
Reinsdorf continuously repeated his belief in the team’s existing core. Agree or disagree, but Reinsdorf doesn’t see a long road back to contention for his White Sox. If that’s the case, the intention to compete sure seems present.
“I don’t want to make predictions, but in this division and with the core of talent that we have, I would hope and I expect that next year is going to be a lot better than this year,” Reinsdorf said. “How much better? I don’t know. But look at the core of this team. And if we can get them all on the field?
“Given the division and given that we have a really good core of players, I would expect next year would be better.”
We’ll see if Getz, following his pledged assessment of every facet of the organization, agrees. Even if he does, there’s a lot of work to be done to make it a reality.
What is Pedro Grifol’s job status moving into 2024?
This one is no mystery, as Getz gave a direct answer to the question during his introductory press conference.
“Pedro will be back next year,” Getz said. “I think it’s important to provide stability to our players. There’s been a lot of changes the last couple of years, and certainly here recently, and I believe we need to get back to playing baseball, focusing on baseball so when these players show up each day they can focus on the game and not the leaders in the organization.”
That definitely sounds like good reasoning, as the White Sox have been bombarded with changes during what was supposed to be the much discussed contention window. If you include interim skipper Miguel Cairo, who took the helm for the final month of last season while Tony La Russa dealt with health problems, the White Sox have had four managers in four seasons. Add to that the firings of Williams and Hahn and installation of Getz, and those are a lot of different voices — and different ways of doing things — to be thrown at these players.
But while the reasoning is sound, and could very well provide benefits to the players, is it the right answer?
It’s difficult to blame Grifol for things going so haywire considering he didn’t put the roster together and it’s his first year on the job. Team brass has repeatedly discussed issues in the clubhouse that they believed were mostly solved by moving veterans at the trade deadline. None of that would seem to be Grifol’s fault, something Hahn was adamant about this season prior to his departure.
But Grifol and his coaching staff were hired with one specific objective in mind, to get an underachieving core performing up to its expectations. That really hasn’t happened, with the exception of Luis Robert Jr., and it’s far from a hot take to say that Grifol and the coaches failed spectacularly in that regard this season.
It might still not be enough to win the argument that Grifol deserves to go, though, and while it’s an assumption that a new general manager always wants to hire their own manager, Getz has plenty of familiarity with Grifol, not just from watching him this season but from their shared time as members of the Royals’ organization.
It’s fair to suggest Getz had enough information on Grifol to make the decision he did to keep him around. Still, it was a repeated refrain of Getz’s press conference that there’s much information for him to gather as he charts a new course for the White Sox.
“Pedro has had to wear a lot of hats this year. And I certainly look forward to providing the support that he needs,” Getz said. “He was a first-year manager with our club, and certainly that means getting to know his players and getting his coaches comfortable here, learning our front office and the operation throughout. And through that, you certainly have to have conversations and experiences you won’t have in Year 2.
“Having me now in this position and having consistent conversations throughout the days and as the season progresses, I’m going to be able to help him navigate a major league season.”
Will White Sox spend big on free agents this offseason?
Considering the amount of work that needs to be done to best set this White Sox team up for contention in 2024, it’s well worth wondering how much of a financial commitment Reinsdorf would be willing to make.
The payroll will remain under Reinsdorf’s purview, rather than under Getz’s, the chairman said, adding, reasonably, that it’s every owner’s right to do that. When asked what sort of budget Getz might have to work with, Reinsdorf defended the spending he’s done in recent years, during which the White Sox have boasted some of the highest payrolls in club history, $193 million in 2022 and $177 million in 2023, according to Fangraphs’ estimations.
“We spent a lot of money this year,” Reinsdorf said. “People talk about, ‘Why won’t the White Sox spend?’ I think we had a payroll of $180 million this year. We’ll do what Chris thinks we ought to do to make us better.”
Indeed, Reinsdorf’s comments pointed to Getz having massive decision-making power when it comes to picking which avenues the White Sox will travel down. But that doesn’t mean Getz is getting a blank check, with Reinsdorf taking an early opportunity to shut down any speculation that mega free agent Shohei Ohtani could wind up on the South Side. And Reinsdorf backed up the existing narrative that he prefers to stay away from high-priced contracts for pitchers, indicating, perhaps, to White Sox fans that the team’s free-agent activity this winter could mirror that of its recent history.
“Look, we’re not going to be in the Ohtani race, I’ll tell you that right now. And we’re not going to sign pitchers to 10-year deals,” Reinsdorf said. “But we’re going to try to get better, and that means trades, it potentially means signing free agents, it means playing smarter baseball. It’s a lot of things.
“I don’t have a lot of time left. I don’t want to go through a long rebuild. I only expect to be here another 10 years.”
So when trying to figure out what the White Sox could be up to this offseason, it seems the middle ground could be the most likely outcome. Big-time free-agent spending might not fit where Reinsdorf wants to go, but rebuilding definitely doesn’t.
The White Sox will be receiving some salary relief, mostly in the form of Yasmani Grandal’s contract coming off the books, as well as eliminating the possibility of Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Kendall Graveman returning by dealing those players at the trade deadline. The team has decisions to make on team options for Tim Anderson and Liam Hendriks, too, perhaps producing another roughly $30 million to work with.
Will Tim Anderson be back with the White Sox in 2024?
The only specific player that was asked about Thursday was Anderson, not surprising considering his recent status as the face of the franchise and the trying season he’s had in 2023.
The team’s decision on Anderson will heavily impact everything that follows. Picking up his $14 million option for next season would seemingly affirm Reinsdorf’s suggestion that the White Sox are intent on competing in 2024, while declining it would create another immediate hole on the roster and perhaps show that Getz believes a lengthy rebuild isn’t the only way to conduct a rebuild.
Anderson’s numbers have been mostly abysmal this season, even as the second half has been better than the first, during which he was dramatically impacted by an early season knee injury. Still, this is a two-time All Star who plays a premium position, and should he return to form, the $14 million would be a relative bargain.
Reinsdorf said the decision is entirely Getz’s. Getz was complimentary of Anderson but came nowhere close to providing an answer on his future.
“TA is a very talented player,” Getz said. “We’ve seen the best years out of TA, and we’ve also seen the struggles. We know what he is capable of doing on the field, and he’s an important piece of the organization.
“A decision like that takes time, and now that this is Day 1 (of my tenure as GM), I certainly want to sit down with TA and sit down with Pedro and really exhaust that decision because he deserves that.”
There’s little doubt that the White Sox’ core has failed to blossom as everyone assumed it would, and Anderson, despite his past success, is a part of that failure. Hampered by injuries the last two seasons, he’s been as disappointing as Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez and Andrew Vaughn. Does Getz see this as an opportunity to start remaking this core?
On the other hand, Anderson is not long removed from performing at an eye-popping level. Not only could losing him hurt the team’s chances of competing quickly, but it would create another item on what seems like an already lengthy to-do list for Getz this winter. The White Sox need starting pitching (a lot of it) and bullpen help, and they need to determine whether they have to go searching for outside help at catcher, at second base and in right field. Does Getz really want to add shortstop to that list, too?
The decision on Anderson will say a lot about the team’s actual ability — and Getz’s faith in the ability — to compete next season.
What other additions are coming to White Sox’ front office under Chris Getz?
Getz promised other outside voices joining him in the front office, but it’s uncertain whether it will be in a high-ranking position or not.
When Williams and Hahn were fired, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that Getz was expected to assume the role, and obviously he did. That same report mentioned that former Royals executive and current Rangers adviser Dayton Moore was a “favorite” to join the White Sox in a key role. That association made sense, as Moore ran the Royals when Getz worked in their front office in 2015 and 2016.
That hire obviously hasn’t happened yet. Could it still?
Reinsdorf said any additions would be Getz’s call. Getz did not talk in specifics.
“I’m certainly open to bringing in people I feel like can be positive resources to our group,” he said. “I know some names have been thrown out there. We haven’t had those discussions yet, but I’m certainly open-minded in terms of strengthening our group.”
Even without the specifics on a role like that, Getz mentioned there would be outside voices coming into the organization. He will serve as the team’s single decision-maker, as the team said it wanted when Williams and Hahn were fired, already a change from how things were operating as recently as last month. As for how many fresh perspectives will arrive, however, that remains to be seen.
“Now that we’re going to have a single decision making operation,” Getz said, “I think — with the added influence of outsiders along with the group we have here — our processes will be a little bit different, and we’re going to see that on the field.”
As for Getz’s old job, it will be his task to fill it. He didn’t provide any specifics on who would be running the White Sox’ minor leagues, however.
“I feel like we’re in a pretty good spot from a leadership standpoint,” he said, “but with that being said, this is Day 1 in this job and we’re going to look at ways to improve the player-development operation, as well.”
Nightengale wrote Sunday that Frank Thomas wants the gig after the Hall-of-Famer’s hopes of being named the team’s general manager were dashed. Remember, though, it takes two to tango, and there was no indication from Nightengale, at least, that this was anything more than a one-sided desire.
Are the White Sox moving to Nashville?
Reinsdorf was asked about a recent report by Crain’s Chicago Business that said he was considering moving the White Sox away from Guaranteed Rate Field when the team’s lease expires six years from now. Alternatives listed in that report included elsewhere in the city, somewhere in the suburbs and even a completely new home in Nashville, Tenn.
“Somebody at Crain’s decided he wanted to write that,” Reinsdorf said. “‘You’re looking at the Bears, and the White Sox lease has six or seven years left to go and the White Sox have some options, they might move out of the city, they might move out of town, they might go to Nashville.’ That wasn’t us, that was a guy at Crains. And ever since the article came out, I’ve been reading about that I’ve been threatening to move to Nashville. That article didn’t come from me.
“But it’s obvious, if we have six years left — I think that’s what it is — we’ve got to decide: What’s the future going to be? We’ll get to it. But I never threatened to move out. We haven’t even begun to have discussions with the (Illinois Sports Facilities Authority), which we’ll have to do soon.”
It does seem that this is far enough away that talking about it right now is relatively worthless, however interesting it might be. A lot can change between now and when the White Sox need to decide on a new lease.
But what you didn’t hear in Reinsdorf’s answer was, “We’re not moving away from Guaranteed Rate Field. We want to stay at 35th and Shields.”
It’s probably just part of the way these things get negotiated. But this topic is probably going to linger for another six years.