The White Sox have a new baseball boss, a new single decision-maker to take the franchise in a new direction.
This is exactly what so many frustrated fans wanted.
They just didn’t think it would play out like this.
It’s been just a little over a week since Jerry Reinsdorf fired Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn, the result of a yearslong rebuild failing to get off the ground and back-to-back seasons of massive disappointment. Such seismic change in a front office might be “the nature of pro sports,” something Hahn kept referencing throughout this past season when asked about his job status, but it’s been a rarity for the White Sox, who experienced two decades plus of Williams and Hahn as the team’s brain trust.
Reinsdorf’s search for a successor, however, his chance to make significant change atop the baseball department, might have never made it out of the building.
Thursday, the White Sox elevated assistant general manager Chris Getz to Hahn’s old job of general manager, a move that had been forecasted by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale more than a week ago. The team’s announced intention to have someone in place by season’s end resulted in Getz officially taking the reins before the end of the month.
It’s enough to wonder if Reinsdorf already had his mind made up when he fired Williams and Hahn last week. The chairman cited Getz’s familiarity with the organization as his most important attribute.
“Chris brings a wealth of knowledge and experience within our organization to this role,” Reinsdorf said in the team’s announcement. “Most importantly, he knows our players, both at the major league level and in our system, knows our staff and is familiar with all aspects of our baseball-operations department.”
Indeed, he does. Getz has been the White Sox’ farm director for the past seven seasons and has held that assistant GM title for the last three seasons. He was drafted by the White Sox in 2005 and played for them in 2008 and 2009 before his career took him to Kansas City and Toronto. He started his post-playing career as part of the Royals’ front office, where he was around for their World Series win in 2015 before returning to the South Side.
Getz, freshly 40 — his birthday was Wednesday — is experienced, familiar with the ins and outs of this organization and is not merely a clone of Williams and Hahn. He surely will bring his own thoughts, ideas, philosophies and ways of doing things that differ from his predecessors.
But he is undoubtedly chock full of “White Sox DNA,” to borrow a Hahn term, and it’s reasonable for fans to be skeptical that he provides the change necessary to get the franchise moving in the right direction. A different direction.
Reinsdorf thinks so.
“Chris has impressed me greatly over the past seven years,” Reinsdorf said in the announcement. “In our conversations together this season, I have become energized by his vision, approach and sense of what this organization needs to become competitive again. With his existing knowledge of the organization, top to bottom, I believe his leadership will provide us with the quickest path forward to our goal, a consistently successful baseball team that competes and plays the game the right way.
“He will re-energize this organization.”
For the second time in three years, an opportunity for the White Sox to move away from their historically insular hiring practices and infuse fresh perspectives into the organization has been passed up in favor of staying in the family, so to speak. The team fired manager Rick Renteria at the conclusion of the 2020 season, and Hahn discussed the need to conduct a sweeping search that would allow them to find that newness. Instead, Reinsdorf stunned by bringing back Tony La Russa, his great friend who had managed the team in the 1970s and 1980s.
Two years later, when La Russa’s health forced him out of the job, Hahn made many similar comments about the team’s need to find someone from outside the organization. And it did in Pedro Grifol.
Here, though, Reinsdorf has passed on yet another chance to diversify the perspectives in the front office and went just one spot down the org chart to find his new single decision-maker.
For a team in need of change, Getz can’t help but strike fans as being more of the same, and he is in a position rare for a move of this magnitude. Instead of being celebrated as the dawn of a new, exciting era, Getz is receiving the same treatment from frustrated fans on the first day of his tenure as Williams and Hahn got on the final day of theirs.
That’s not his fault, but he has a lot to prove to White Sox fans. And he also has a lot to do to fix this mess.
We’ll see if Getz is plotting to ready this team for immediate contention, as Hahn deemed “viable” at the trade deadline at the beginning of this month, or if he sees the necessity for another prolonged tear down and rebuild.
The White Sox have already spent on the current core, with Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert Jr. all under contract — and due for costly raises — for years to come. Andrew Benintendi is in just the first year or a five-year deal that stands as the richest free-agent contract in club history. Tim Anderson has a club option for 2024 coming off the worst year of his career.
Though there’s an interesting batch of pitching prospects in Double-A, with a couple recently promoted to Triple-A, it’s too early to tell if any will be able to make an impact in 2024, seemingly leaving the pitching cupboard bare in the big leagues. Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech figure to be back next year, though neither has inspired much confidence with poor performances in 2023. Much of the bullpen was dealt away in deadline deals, and it’s unknown whether Liam Hendriks will pitch for this team again, as he’s slated to miss most if not all of next season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Yasmani Grandal will be a free agent this winter, the end of his contract and the trades of some pricey pitchers freeing up money should Reinsdorf opt to spend at the same level he did this season. The catcher’s spot remains a question mark with Korey Lee still in his first handful of games as a big leaguer. Getz and his staff will need to determine if they’ve seen enough from Lenyn Sosa and Oscar Colás to hand them starting jobs next year at second base and in right field, respectively.
But the mental mistakes those two youngsters, in particular, keep making — as well as the host of base-running and defensive errors made by far more experienced players — speak to the clean-up job facing Getz. Grifol and his staff were brought in this season to do away with the fundamental mistakes that plagued the team during last season’s disappointing .500 finish. Recent comments about a lack of effort and focus at the end of this lost season — nearly 30 games worse than that 81-81 record from a year ago — show Grifol hasn’t been able to come close to doing what he was tasked with doing.
In addition to evaluating Grifol, whose job is reportedly safe, per Nightengale, Getz will have to figure out some way to eliminate this type of play from the team.
Someone with experience in a winning organization might have seemed better suited to make the types of necessary changes that could bring about better and more consistent play on the South Side. But Reinsdorf again made a move that reinforced the narrative that exists about him and the way he runs the White Sox. Skepticism is a perfectly reasonable reaction. Plenty of fans are reacting with far more than just skepticism.
Now it’s on Getz to change the narrative and show that Reinsdorf’s ways, this time, have put someone in charge who can turn things around at 35th and Shields.
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