SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Speaking at the general managers meetings earlier this week, new White Sox GM Chris Getz assessed his team’s underperforming roster as bluntly as an executive can.
“I don’t like our team,” Getz said. “We have to make some adjustments to improve in 2024. … When I say I don’t like our team, we’ve got pieces that are talented and attractive and they can be part of a winning club, but obviously we haven’t gone out there and performed. It’s not a well-rounded club right now. We have to find players to come in here and help get us in the right direction.”
Change already is underway. Mike Clevinger opted out. Tim Anderson was informed he no longer fits the team’s plans. Popular broadcaster Jason Benetti is headed to Detroit. Nobody seems to know what the payroll will look like, but much of the speculation suggests a drastic reduction is coming.
Those are a few of the daunting conditions under which Getz is working.
As he begins his first offseason, Getz acknowledged there are no quick solutions for a franchise looking to rebound from a devastating 101-loss season in which key players were traded, fans routinely voiced their desire for an ownership change and longtime executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn were dismissed.
Though he is still relatively new to the job, Getz, named the White Sox GM on Aug. 31, already has a sense for the team’s new direction. Saying he wants the organization to be attractive to pitchers, Getz suggested he wants to put together a more athletic roster, clean up the team’s infield defense and improve its base running.
The current plans apparently don’t include Anderson, whose eighth and final season with the White Sox was the worst of his career. The two-time All-Star was valued at minus-1.3 Wins Above Replacement, batting .245/.286/.296 with one home run and 25 RBIs in 524 plate appearances. Rather than pick up a $14 million club option, the White Sox bought out Anderson’s contract for $1 million.
The decision left the White Sox with another massive hole. The club currently is without a shortstop, second baseman, catcher, closer and only has two starting pitchers.
“The conversation with TA was difficult,” Getz said. “With the direction we’re going and unfortunately a decision on a TA situation had to come when it did. … We have a lot of holes to fill on our club. We had 101 losses last year. (We) have to fill so many holes in both near term and long term, (we) felt it was the best decision to decline that option.”
Though they’re open to a reunion with Anderson, the decision to part with him comes after Clevinger elected not to pick up his end of a $12 million mutual option on Friday. With Clevinger gone, Chicago’s starting rotation currently features 2022 AL Cy Young runner-up Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, who walked 91 batters and posted a 5.43 ERA in 129 1/3 innings last season.
The White Sox also recently declined to pick up a $15 million option on Liam Hendriks, which instead allows the club to pay out the reliever’s $15 million buyout in 10 annual installments of $1.5 million. Hendriks is likely to miss the 2024 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August.
Thus, Hendriks, Clevinger and Anderson are all free agents along with catcher Yasmani Grandal, reliever Bryan Shaw and infielder Elvis Andrus.
It remains to be seen what financial resources Getz has to fill those many openings and turn things around.
Asked about payroll, Getz said there’s “no set number right now.” Either way, league sources believe the White Sox will reduce their spending.
Just one season removed from a division title and the franchise’s first consecutive playoff appearances in its history, the 2023 White Sox featured a $181 million Opening Day payroll, according to Cot’s Contracts. With then-manager Tony La Russa at the helm, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf allowed his front office to push harder in 2022, opening the season at a franchise-record $193 million payroll, a figure multiple league sources said is out of ownership’s comfort zone.
Though the White Sox saved money and made several trades for prospects at the deadline, the 2023 club didn’t only disappoint on the field, but also at the box office.
After drawing 2 million fans in 2022, an increase of more than 400,000 tickets sold from the previous year, attendance declined to 1.67 million last season. A disgruntled portion of those in attendance occasionally brought signs imploring Reinsdorf, the club’s owner since 1981, to sell the team.
“We want to identify players that we feel like can help us, both short-term and long-term, and when those players come our way, then we’ll make a decision,” Getz said. “Obviously, there’s a financial component to it that Jerry gets involved in, and we’ll continue to have those conversations. … But right now, there’s certainly a deeper dive that needs to happen with this club as we improve moving forward.”
Getz made it clear the White Sox are open to multiple avenues for improvement. Cease and All-Star center fielder Luis Robert are widely regarded as the team’s best players. The roster also features the potent, yet-oft injured bat of Eloy Jiménez.
But none of the players on second-year manager Pedro Grifol’s roster are off limits.
“There are no untouchables,” Getz said.
Getz confirmed La Russa is involved in the team’s offseason planning as an advisor. Earlier this week, La Russa was part of a White Sox group attending an Arizona Fall League contest featuring the club’s top prospect, shortstop Colson Montgomery.
“That type of experience is invaluable, not only in the team building aspect with so many little pieces that go into a major league club, there is going to be mentoring with some of our minor league coaches and our players as well,” Getz said. “He’s an asset, I’m going to take advantage of him.”
The MVP of Sunday’s AFL All-Star Game, Montgomery is the “talk of the Fall League,” Getz said. Getz is excited about Montgomery’s maturity, hit tool and zone awareness. Though he doesn’t want to set limitations on the 22nd pick of the 2021 draft, Getz isn’t ready to anoint Montgomery the team’s 2024 Opening Day shortstop, either.
“I don’t want to have the expectation for Colson to think he’s going to be our Opening Day shortstop,” Getz said. “But I don’t want to cap anything for him, either, because it’s important for him to stay motivated and be ready to go in spring training.”
While catcher Edgar Quero and left-handed pitcher Jake Eder (prospects acquired at the trade deadline), and southpaw Noah Schultz, aren’t expected to be ready for 2024, several other farmhands could figure into the team’s current plans.
Falling in line with Grifol’s challenge in September that he wants everyone headed to big league camp to come in with the mindset they can make the club, Getz suggested pitchers Nick Nastrini and Jordan Leasure, both acquired in the deal that sent Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly to Los Angeles, have a chance to make the club.
“We’re looking for players that understand what it takes to be on a winning ballclub,” Getz said. “That starts with their approach on a day to day basis, being in the right place at the right time, on the field and more or less being baseball players going out there and working together, competing.”
— The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Greenberg contributed to this story.
(Top photo of Chris Getz: Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)