Often, in Januarys past, we’d be talking about a mostly completed White Sox roster.
But this baseball offseason is moving painfully slow, meaning Chris Getz is smack dab in the middle of his winter work, just as the first significant snowfall blankets Chicago.
Dylan Cease remains one of the sport’s top trade chips, and if Getz completes a deal before the team heads to Arizona for spring training, it could better position the White Sox for long-term success. But there’s more roster-building than just moving the ace of the pitching staff, and Getz faced questions about recent additions and additions still to come during a Tuesday media session.
Some questions were answered and help folks better project what things will look like come Opening Day. Some questions were left unanswered, and there’s plenty of mystery remaining in how that final roster comes together – and how it helps Getz’s long-term planning.
Here are three questions that did get an answer Tuesday and three more we’re still left wondering about.
Answered: Garrett Crochet will be a starting pitcher for the White Sox
The biggest surprise of Getz’s media session was the reveal that the White Sox will be preparing Crochet to be a starting pitcher in 2024.
This seemed like something the team was somewhat lukewarm on in the past, as recently as November, providing different wordings of “we’ll see” during both Rick Hahn’s time in charge and since Getz took over in late August. But this is a firm declaration that the White Sox plan to move ahead with Crochet, their first-round draft pick in 2020, as a targeted member of the starting rotation.
“The feedback on Garrett has been very positive, and he’s preparing this season to be a starter,” Getz said. “It’s something he has done in the past. He has the weapons to do so. He has had some health hiccups along the way. Physically, he’s in a very good spot.
“At the end of the season and into the offseason, we continued to have conversations about what the expectations are and ‘How do you see yourself?’ and this is how we get there. He believes he can be a starter. We’ve seen him be a starter in the past. So we are going to go into spring prepared to stretch him out, and we’ll make adjustments along the way if need be.”
That’s not, it’s important to mention, an indication that Crochet is targeted to be a member of the rotation come Opening Day. He’s got a very low amount of innings under his belt and will require plenty of outings, presumably in the minors, to build him up to a starter’s workload. After the pandemic wiped out his final season at the University of Tennessee, he was dropped into a minors-less season in 2020, where he made a handful of electrifying relief appearances at the end of that shortened campaign. He was an effective reliever in 2021 before missing the entirety of the 2022 campaign while recovering from Tommy John surgery, a recovery that stretched into 2023 and, along with other physical issues, limited Crochet to just 12.2 big league innings.
“Well, he hasn’t started in a couple years. So it’s going to take a little bit of time to appropriately stretch him out,” Getz said. “We are going in with the intention for him to be a starter in 2024.”
As Getz mentioned, Crochet has hoped to walk the path toward starting pitching for a while now, but the decision to work him toward a rotation spot speaks to the White Sox attempting to find some long-term answers on their pitching staff.
Answered: Martín Maldonado and Max Stassi will be the White Sox’ catchers
With Getz adding a pair of veteran catchers just months after the team added a pair of young catchers in deadline trades, it was a wonder how a suddenly crowded catching corps would shake out come the spring. But the general manager has his eyes set firmly on his two veterans forming the catching tandem at the big league level come Opening Day.
Maldonado is a no-brainer, considering the $4.25 million contract he just signed and his impressive track record guiding pitching staffs while a member of the dominant Astros. But Stassi was acquired in a trade in which the Braves paid much of his 2024 salary, leaving it a question whether he was brought in to start, assume the No. 2 job or just provide springtime competition for youngster Korey Lee, who was given a monthlong run at the end of last season.
Lee, it seems, will take his offensive struggles – he managed only five hits in his one month of big league action – back to the minor leagues, while Maldonado and Stassi are already being written in as the Nos. 1 and 2 catchers on the White Sox’ depth chart.
“We expect those two catchers to be on our major league club,” Getz said. “Korey, we feel very strongly about what he’s capable of doing on the defensive side. We have seen stretches of offensive production, and we are going to work on him getting as consistent as possible.”
Answered: Chris Flexen will be part of the White Sox’ starting rotation
Similar to the questions surrounding Stassi’s role, given his low cost, even a major league deal for Flexen was relatively cheap enough that plenty were guessing he could be just part of a growing starting-pitching mix rather than a surefire member of the White Sox’ starting rotation.
But that won’t be the case, with Getz expressing that Flexen is planned to assume a role as one of the team’s starting five.
“The expectation is for him to be in the rotation and provide starter innings for us this year,” Getz said.
Flexen struggled last season and signed for less than $2 million. During his tough 2023, in which he pitched for both the Mariners and Rockies, he also pitched out of the bullpen, and that experience raised the possibility that he could be a swingman, possibly moving between the rotation and relief corps.
But Getz described Flexen as the type of player new pitching czar Brian Bannister identifies as fixable, and it seems the White Sox will attempt to do just that and make Flexen an effective member of their rotation.
“When we go through our assessment for arms that we feel can help our club, going back to even Erick Fedde, using Brian Bannister and our acquisition team, we try to identify some things in their arsenal, or it could be a mechanic, that we feel like we can bring those players in here, improve them and get them out there and make them be productive major league players,” Getz said. “Chris Flexen, his pitch attack, some mechanical adjustments needed to be made. We’re on the same page and look forward to watching that play out.”
Unanswered: Will the White Sox trade Dylan Cease this offseason?
Unsurprisingly, Getz didn’t offer too much of a peek behind the curtain into the discussions he’s having with teams when it comes to Cease, who continues to be one of the most discussed players in baseball this offseason. Reports have painted a picture of a high asking price on the White Sox’ end, which makes sense as Getz has an opportunity to significantly bolster his attempt to remake the organization, and the team’s desire to hold onto their ace should they not receive what they want in return.
That narrative won’t change much after Getz’s comments Tuesday, in which he said much the same of what he’s said in past sessions at the GM meetings in November or the Winter Meetings last month.
“We’ve had conversations about Dylan Cease, but I also know that we’re not going to move a player like Dylan, or anyone else, unless we feel like we’re going to benefit. So it’s got to be right for all parties,” Getz said. “A lot of these conversations are ongoing. There’s a lot that goes into any sort of trade transaction, there’s a lot of conversations, build up, research and obviously getting it to the finish line. … We’ll continue to do that and find ways to get our club better.”
As fans and observers attempt to read the tea leaves and follow each scrap that’s sent out by national reporters – the latest being that the White Sox are looking for a pair of top-100 prospects plus two more prospects in any deal that sends Cease out of town – Getz offered little in terms of specifics on that front Tuesday. He said he’s looking for any type of player that makes the White Sox better in the short and long term. He said the other 29 teams all have different levels of interest and financial flexibility and urgency to get a deal done, which can of course evolve over time.
The bottom line, for Getz, is that the White Sox are looking for a deal that makes sense for them and their short- and long-term planning. Which doesn’t do much to answer whether – or when – Cease will be traded.
“When it comes to a Cease market or any other player’s market, we’re certainly not operating in a vacuum,” Getz said. “Some teams have a little bit more financial flexibility than others. All it takes is one team to want to jump out, perhaps, and get a deal done. In the case of Dylan, I don’t think there’s a club out there that hasn’t expressed some level of interest in him. All their situations are different.
“Every organization has different types of players. Those players, how they apply to your club, those are all different factors that go into making a decision. If we feel like there’s a fit that improves our club, we’ll certainly consider it. Certainly it hasn’t happened at this point.
“It’s ever-evolving in terms of the urgency of other clubs. It could be in an offseason, it could be at a deadline, it could be in May. There’s just so many factors when you’re talking about 29 other clubs.”
Unanswered: Who will be the White Sox’ right fielder?
Asked who currently tops the White Sox’ depth chart in right field, Getz didn’t even provide a name.
“We have some internal candidates,” Getz said, “but we aren’t ready to establish who is going to be in right field at this point.”
That’s the biggest and boldest indication yet that whoever starts there come Opening Day isn’t a member of the organization right now. Gavin Sheets would figure to be trotted out there if the season started tomorrow, but Getz talked during the Winter Meetings about a desire to improve defensively at the position, where Sheets, a natural first baseman, spent most of his time in 2023.
Given Oscar Colás is projected to start the 2024 season in the minor leagues after a horrendous showing at the big league level last year, there aren’t many internal options that excite, even if Getz said there were internal options the team is considering.
So it seems we can safely say that Getz & Co. plan to go find a right fielder before time runs out on the offseason.
“We are looking to add,” Getz said.
Unanswered: How will the White Sox improve offensively in 2024?
Getz’s moves, to this point in the offseason, have done plenty to address his priority of improving the White Sox’ abysmal defense, but they’ve done little – if anything – to improve what was one of the sport’s least effective offenses in 2023.
New acquisitions like Maldonado, Stassi, Paul DeJong and Nicky Lopez don’t bring much in terms of recent offensive success, while holdovers Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez, Andrew Vaughn and Andrew Benintendi are coming off woeful campaigns a year ago.
Tuesday, Getz placed the emphasis on what a new-look coaching staff – Marcus Thames and Mike Tosar replaced José Castro and Chris Johnson as hitting coaches – and new leadership in the front office can do to improve the team’s hitters.
“We look forward to getting everyone out there and establishing what we’re going to be moving forward,” Getz said. “It starts with putting together quality at-bats, understanding certain situations…. (Players) need to understand the value of having that awareness and carrying out that plan on a consistent basis. And being even-keeled, not being too high when things are going well or too low when there are struggles.
“We’ve got some pieces in there that we certainly know what they’re capable of doing. Now it’s a matter of pulling out the positives in their game.”
It might not be a confidence-inspiring approach, considering it sounds an awful lot like what was said by Hahn and Pedro Grifol last offseason, when they focused on coaches doing the work of getting young hitters to finally reach their potential. That effort mostly failed in 2023, as the team compounded the disappointment of an 81-81 finish in 2022 with a shocking 101 losses.
Hoping the same batch of hitters produces wildly different results might not convince fans there’s a winning strategy in place, but Getz is hopeful things can get better.
“It starts with the education to our players. You educate them, you hold them accountable, you make sure they’re prepared to go out there and fight on a daily basis,” Getz said. “They’ve got to know the pitchers that they’re facing. I do feel the system is going to be strong in place.
“I feel pretty good about where we’re headed. Are we where we need to be? Of course not. But I do feel we’ve got the makings to be more successful than we’ve been in the past.”
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