Can the White Sox turn things around fast?
It’s the reason Chris Getz has his job, so said Jerry Reinsdorf, who promoted Getz to Rick Hahn’s old position as general manager after determining that hiring someone from outside the organization would involve a lengthy evaluation period that would strip an entire year away from the process of taking a team that could very well lose 100 games this season and turning it into a contender.
Now that doesn’t necessarily equal what Hahn said back at the trade deadline, when he deemed contention in 2024 “viable” for these White Sox. Getz’s timeline might be different, and just because it’s a year shorter than any outsider’s, in Reinsdorf’s estimation, it might not necessarily mean things will be all fixed up by Opening Day next March.
Most folks would probably consider that a long shot after watching the White Sox stumble for six months. But the guy Getz said is staying in place after a tortuous first year as a major league manager sees a rapid transformation as entirely possible.
“We have to really evaluate our roster and change that mindset to where we are thinking about one thing and one thing only: not just winning baseball games but winning a world championship,” Pedro Grifol said earlier this week. “It’s not about, ‘It’s a weak division, we have a chance.’ This is about developing a team that can win a world championship. That’s what this is about.”
But can the White Sox go from this type of team to that type of team in one winter?
“I think we can, yeah,” Grifol said. “I really do.”
Getz already had a tall task of morphing the roster into one that can reach such heights, dispatched by Reinsdorf to get the White Sox back to the top of at least the AL Central as quickly as possible. Now Grifol is bringing up a world championship.
Good luck, Chris.
Even if the White Sox get a team-wide attitude adjustment this offseason and work their asses off to eliminate the constant fielding and base-running mistakes they made the last two seasons, even if they figure out a way to start taking walks and stop issuing them, there seems to be a bunch of holes on the roster. Getz has a lot of work ahead of him this winter, so much that it seems nearly impossible to do everything he needs to do, particularly while Reinsdorf doesn’t sound super jazzed about a big-time spending spree in free agency.
“We spent a lot of money this year,” Reinsdorf said the day Getz was introduced as the new GM. “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 do thinks we ought to do to make us better. Look, we’re not going to be in the (Shohei) Ohtani race, I’ll tell you that right now. And we’re not going to sign pitchers to 10-year deals. 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.”
So what specific needs will Getz be addressing, or trying to address? Here’s a snapshot at what the roster needs as Getz’s offseason work starts taking shape.
Starting pitching, and a lot of it
The White Sox are in dire need of starting pitching, and it’s the work Getz does there that will determine if they have any sort of shot at competing next season. With Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito traded at the deadline, Mike Clevinger only returning if both sides want a reunion and Davis Martin on the mend from Tommy John surgery, the only sure things for the 2024 rotation are Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, two pitchers who have struggled mightily in 2023 and will carry big question marks into next year.
Touki Toussaint and Jesse Scholtens have been given extended auditions this season, and though Scholtens has been mostly fine, neither pitcher has generated overwhelming confidence in consistently delivering if given a 30-start workload next season. Most of the starting-pitching talent in the minors is far away, with the recently promoted Cristian Mena and Nick Nastrini the only ones warranting mention in this discussion, given their status as Triple-A arms.
The White Sox would be wise to find three pitchers who can assume heavy workloads in the rotation and provide some dependability to a starting staff that’s nothing but question marks at the moment.
Will Tim Anderson be back?
Anderson was the only specific player Getz was asked about during his introductory press conference, though he didn’t provide much insight into his thinking when it comes to whether the White Sox will pick up the team option that would keep their shortstop around for 2024.
Anderson has had a career-worst season in 2023, hindered by an early season injury and dealing with off-the-field stuff, as well. He’s looked a far cry from the batting champ and two-time All Star of old. But if the White Sox believe he can return to that form in 2024, they’d be getting a relative bargain by paying him $14 million.
One should never underestimate the power of the contract year, which along with Anderson’s past successes make a bounce back perfectly realistic. Also working in favor of Anderson sticking around is all the other stuff Getz needs to accomplish this offseason. Would he really want to add “finding a new shortstop” to his to-do list?
But comments like the ones he made to reporters last weekend in Detroit add reason to be skeptical that a reunion is a slam dunk.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you look up next year,’’ Getz told reporters, including Daryl Van Schouwen of the Sun-Times, “and all of a sudden he’s back to the Tim Anderson we’re accustomed to seeing. But it takes a lot of effort and focus to be a successful major league player, and we need to make sure all these players are fully committed to being part of our group moving forward.”
If not Oscar Colás in right field, then who?
The White Sox made a bizarre move in sending Colás, who won the everyday right-field job in spring training, to the minor leagues with just a handful of games remaining on the schedule, voicing that he’s better off learning at Triple-A Charlotte than at the big league level.
Whether you agree with that or not, what’s for certain is that he’s got a lot of learning to do, as mistakes in the field and on the base paths piled up at an astounding rate while he struggled to produce much with his bat. It’s opened up perfectly reasonable questions about whether Colás — who the team invested in as an international free agent before essentially crowning him one of their starting position players last offseason — has an immediate future in the major leagues.
It was reported Thursday that he’ll play winter ball in the Dominican Republic, which Grifol said would be essential to his offseason development. But will it be enough to convince the White Sox he deserves another shot at an everyday gig? Getz better have an alternative in place should Colás not be able to shake the style of play that was clearly not of major league caliber.
Go get a second baseman
Lenyn Sosa hasn’t been the mistake machine that Colás was, but he’s done little to impress during a more extended look at the big league level than the ones he received earlier in his career. Both his batting average and on-base percentage were below .200 for the season entering Thursday’s game, and while Grifol voiced an importance for the White Sox to see what they’ve got in Sosa over the season’s final stretch, he’s lost playing time to veteran and free-agent-to-be Elvis Andrus, who has swung a better bat of late than he did earlier in the campaign.
What does it all mean for second base in 2024? Well, it doesn’t seem that Sosa accomplishes the task of providing reliability and certainty for a team that would look to compete for, at least, a division title. That likely puts the position back on the offseason to-do list, where it’s been for years. Sosa might not be the answer, but someone has to be. And that answer isn’t readily apparent in the organization.
Who’s the closer?
Gregory Santos was given a shot to prove he deserved to be the White Sox’ closer after Liam Hendriks was ruled out for the remainder of the season with Tommy John surgery. Things were going terrifically for Santos for much of the season, and he looked to be one of the team’s bright spots. But then Christopher Morel blasted a walk-off homer off Santos at Wrigley Field, and things have gone south.
Before that Cubs game, Santos had a 2.53 ERA. Since, including that night, he’s got a 6.48 ERA with three blown saves, including a game in which he balked in the winning run.
So is Santos still the best candidate to be the team’s closer in 2024? It won’t be Hendriks, whose recovery from Tommy John is likely to keep him out for the majority, if not the entirety of next season. It’s unknown whether he’ll even be with the White Sox past the end of 2023. Does that mean that integral position will also need to be filled during the winter? Boy, these things are piling up.
Korey Lee needs some help behind the plate
Grifol has been pleased with what Lee has been able to do behind the plate, and he arrived, after being acquired in the trade that sent Kendall Graveman to the Astros, seemingly ready to handle the responsibilities of the position. The bat, meanwhile, has not been as impressive, and Lee has just three hits since joining the big league team.
Lee might not be the ultimate future behind the plate, not with Edgar Quero, landed in the trade that sent Giolito to the Angels, ranking among the White Sox’ top prospects. But Quero is still young and likely won’t be ready for next year, leaving Lee as the likely depth-chart topper come Opening Day.
But with Seby Zavala already jettisoned and Yasmani Grandal’s contract ending at season’s close, will the White Sox keep Carlos Pérez around as Lee’s backup? Or would a veteran provide greater benefit? Fans have latched onto the White Sox’ reported interest in Royals catcher Salvador Pérez at the deadline and see a reunion with Grifol’s one-time pupil as a likely move. But that Pérez makes a lot of money — of note considering the amount of resources Getz will need to shore up the rest of the roster — in addition to being a towering figure in Royals history, someone who would seem to have good reason to remain with that franchise for the entirety of his career. The answer seems more likely to be found elsewhere.
More bullpen arms
While the closer’s job is an important one, it’s not the only hole in a bullpen that was gutted by those deadline deals. Graveman, Joe Kelly, Keynan Middleton and Reynaldo López were all traded away, and while the returns were good ones, that effectively removed the entirety of the team’s back end. Throw in Hendriks’ injury, and no one that formed a seemingly imposing late-inning mix coming into this season will return for 2024.
The exception is Aaron Bummer, but the left-hander has had a tough go this season, currently owning a gargantuan 7.00 ERA. Another lefty, Garrett Crochet, has spent much of the year on the IL and has his sights on returning to starting, which he did before the White Sox drafted him in 2020.
Outside of Bummer, Crochet and Santos, who could even be a part of this bullpen next season? Here, more than in the rotation, there might be opportunity for in-house additions, and guys like Lane Ramsey and Declan Cronin have been given late-season opportunities, to varying degrees of success. But there would figure to be more work to fill this group out and provide some reliability heading into 2024.
Any big changes to the core?
Addition by subtraction? Who knows how likely that would be to work for the White Sox, who can afford little more subtraction, as the bulk of this writing has hopefully illustrated. But it was something Hahn said at the trade deadline that sticks out when it comes to the team’s offseason work, even though there’s someone else in charge now.
“You don’t shake something up just to shake it up. That said, what we put out there hasn’t worked the last couple of years now, or hasn’t worked since at least ‘21. So there is absolutely consideration and dialogue and various permutations that we’ve played with to have a different look going forward,” Hahn said. “What exactly that’s going to be come the ‘24 season? There’s a lot of time between now and then to put that all in place. But just as it would be foolish for us to enter the trade-deadline period and not talk about the entire roster and understand the value of our entire club, it’d be foolish for us to essentially say, ‘Nah, it’s going to work better next time with this same group.’”
Much of the team’s core — Luis Robert Jr., Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, Andrew Vaughn, Andrew Benintendi — seems unlikely to change, given the relatively immovable contracts and “sell low” nature of any potential trade, given their underperformance. But Robert is perhaps the only one who has lived up to expectations, and Hahn’s point that it’s well worth looking into changing a group that’s been dogged by injuries and poor results for multiple years is extremely valid.
But just like with Anderson’s option, any big subtraction from that group creates yet another hole on the roster. Enough holes — and enough stripping from the big league roster — and this suddenly starts looking an awful lot like a rebuild, something Reinsdorf said he’s very much against.
It’s a fine tightrope for Getz to walk this winter, perhaps an impossible one, if he wants to make the necessary changes to transform this disappointing White Sox team into a contender.
You can assume he’ll be busy.