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To compete or not to compete? That is the question for the Chicago White Sox.
Pardon the Shakespearean introduction; I promise I’m talking to you, the reader, and not just transcribing my ravings toward a skull in my apartment.
But the White Sox do face such a question when it comes to their plan for 2024. Surely, Chris Getz has a plan, even though baseball’s offseason has yet to materialize. But the team’s new general manager did not commit one way or another to whether the White Sox will be assembled as planned contenders in next year’s AL Central.
Part of that might be because it remains to be seen if it can be pulled off. Getz’s to-do list, should he attempt to construct a roster capable of winning a division title, is long. It’s very long. And how many of those items he can tick off could determine whether he’s comfortable setting expectations of contention on the South Side.
But after a 101-loss campaign in 2023 and a rare regime change atop the baseball department, it would be far from unreasonable to set sights further into the future.
And if that’s the case, the offseason will look very, very different.
Given those two dramatically different ends of the spectrum and all the team’s needs, Getz stands at something of a fork in the road as he arrives at his first winter as a major league GM: Does he go for it in 2024 or does he set the White Sox up for a better chance in 2025?
Here’s a look at each path and how Getz’s decision could shape the upcoming offseason.
Assembling a contender in 2024
This is certainly the more difficult of the two directions, given that the White Sox could use around a dozen new players — costing a not insignificant amount of money — if the roster is going to be transformed from one that just turned in one of the worst seasons in franchise history into one capable of knocking the Twins off the top of the division.
It starts with Getz spending the kind of money his predecessors rarely did, and Jerry Reinsdorf has already bristled at the idea of handing out the types of gargantuan, decade-long contracts that have recently gone to the game’s biggest stars, voicing a definitive opinion the White Sox will not pursue Shohei Ohtani, who could reel in the richest free-agent deal in the sport’s history.
But whether or not the White Sox plan to swim in the deepest end of the free-agent pool, they need so many players that offseason spending will still be high if they plan on stocking the roster with outside additions capable of creating the necessary turnaround to get the team to where Reinsdorf desires. Remember, he settled on Getz as his new baseball boss — without interviewing any candidates from outside the organization — because he believed it the quickest route to that turnaround. If Reinsdorf’s hunger for a contender is so great that he expects it as soon as next year, it will cost him.
An effort to win in 2024 means fewer chances being taken on in-house youngsters, even if the only way this is happening is if the entrenched — though not yet old — core of Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez, Tim Anderson, Andrew Vaughn and Andrew Benintendi all show up and produce in big ways next season. Luis Robert Jr. was an MVP-level player in 2023, and he’ll need a lot of help from guys already here.
But forget giving Korey Lee a shot at a full year as the No. 1 catcher. Getz will need to turn to a proven veteran backstop for greater certainty. Forget Nick Nastrini’s hope to “infiltrate” the major league rotation on Opening Day. Getz will need to stock a barren rotation with some more dependable arms. Forget extended major league tryouts for the likes of Lenyn Sosa, José Rodríguez and Oscar Colás. The White Sox need experienced, productive hitters at second base and in right field. And who exactly will be locking down the ninth inning?
Anderson’s option would almost certainly be picked up. It might strike as a roll of the dice in the wake of his career-worst 2023 season, but Colson Montgomery, as eye-popping a prospect as he is, can’t be expected to shoulder 162 games as a big league shortstop by next March.
See? It adds up.
In an odd turn, this would be the type of offseason White Sox fans are somewhat used to, at least those still capable of remembering back to the days before Rick Hahn launched his rebuilding project. Often credited to Kenny Williams, these were the offseasons where the White Sox would go get several free agents of note, if not the ones at the tippy top of the market, and muster a run at the division crown.
But considering the White Sox won the AL Central only three times between 2000 and 2016, it’s fair to say that strategy rarely worked, and it was the repeated failures in the wake of those types of offseasons that led to the full-scale rebuilding effort launched after the 2016 season.
But Reinsdorf is clearly sick of rebuilding, and we’ll see if that spurs him to authorize a spending spree of sorts this winter.
A Chicago White Sox rebuild in 2025?
Reinsdorf has no interest in another complete teardown. But looking at the roster, plenty of fans have already decided that’s precisely what the White Sox need.
Whether or not that would move from fan opinion to straight fact depends almost entirely on that list of core players and whether they can prove to the White Sox that they are capable of staying healthy and producing enough to remain the “foundation” that Reinsdorf touted the day he promoted Getz. That they’ve yet to do so seven years after Hahn started the project indicates why the organization sits where it does today.
With Moncada, Jiménez, Robert and Benintendi already paid for, it would seem unlikely that the White Sox simply give up on them, and so any transformation of the roster would not be the kind fans just endured under Hahn’s watch, with years of non-competitive teams on the horizon.
Instead, Getz would likely shoot for 2025 as a season in which the team would have a better chance at mounting a charge toward the top of the Central. He can look to this year’s playoffs as a perfect indicator that such a thought is a realistic one. Two teams still standing, the Rangers and Diamondbacks, lost 100-plus games just two seasons ago, as did the Orioles, who finished with the best record in the AL this season. The Twins were that season’s last-place team in the AL Central.
So if that’s the decision, what does this winter look like?
The White Sox might say goodbye to Anderson, whose club option for 2024 is the final year of control on his contract. Even with his horrid offensive numbers this season, losing a two-time All Star capable of winning a batting title would significantly hinder the team’s ability to compete in 2024. But if competing isn’t the goal, losing him saves the team more than $10 million and opens the door for Montgomery, should he prove himself worthy of a major league promotion at some point during the year.
The starting-pitching need becomes somewhat less pressing, with Getz not needing to land three to four reliable major league starters. Instead, shots can be given to the Nastrinis of the world, be it over the course of a full season or in a smaller dose that allows for promotions when guys are ready. Nastrini didn’t pitch much at Triple-A last season, and the other intriguing pitching prospects in the organization — Jake Eder, Ky Bush, Cristian Mena, Jonathan Cannon — similarly require more minor league time. A target to compete in 2025 allows those guys to become a part of the mix.
Lee can be given an opportunity to show he can handle a full season as a No. 1 catcher in the big leagues. Even if the White Sox are waiting for 20-year-old catching prospect Edgar Quero, Lee has received rave reviews for his personality and attitude as a catcher, and a full season could allow him to prove the mere five hits he got in one month on the job at the end of 2023 were not the norm when it comes to his offensive capabilities.
And instead of asking, “Which free-agent second baseman should the White Sox go after?” when the options are far from intriguing, a better question might be: “Could the White Sox remake their roster with a trade or two?”
Shipping someone like Moncada, Jiménez or Dylan Cease out of town might hurt the White Sox for 2024. But if the return is good enough to fill a need or two or three by the time 2025 rolls around? It’s suddenly worth considering.
Now, this all sounds familiar, right?
It’s a path far easier — and cheaper — than the first one listed. Plenty of fans would love for Getz to go out and make several splashy free-agent signings that invigorate the roster. While setting up for longer-term success might make the most sense to plenty more fans, the White Sox have shown they can succeed at getting rid of players but not at turning that skill into a major league winner.
Indeed, not trying to field a contender in 2024, whether it’s the right course of action or not, would be a bummer for this fan base. And that includes Reinsdorf, who voiced an expectation that things would be much, much better next year. It’s hard to imagine that things could be worse than the 101-loss season we just witnessed, but if the scales tilt more toward a season of tryouts than a season of meaningful games, how much better can it really be?
Getz will have certainly already weighed all of this as he prepares for the light to turn green on baseball’s offseason once the World Series wraps up. But as we haven’t received a commitment from him on which path he’s going down, our perception of the organization moving into the winter still firmly sits at the fork in the road. We’ll hear more from Getz in the coming weeks and months about the White Sox’ offseason approach.
Until then, it’s thinking about the two very different ways things can go.
CHGO White Sox offseason coverage
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