White Sox’s international approach in need of overhaul

Oscar Colás of the Chicago White Sox
(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

The strongest part of the media conference announcing Chris Getz’s ascension to general manager was Getz’s opening statement. He basically said what he could say, which became evident when reporters asked him to elaborate on some areas, and he was limited by how little he could say.

But there was one line that stuck out to me, if only for the order of the elements involved.

“From this day forward, our organization will do whatever is necessary to be better in 2024 and beyond. It starts with a strong foundation. We will assess international, amateur and pro scouting, we will look at player development, sports science and medical departments, all while continuing to integrate analytics into every process that we have.”

I’d normally caution that I might be reading/listening too closely, but it jumped out to me in real time that Getz listed international scouting first, because the franchise has often treated it like an afterthought. This season marked yet another signing period where the Sox failed to spend their entire international pool, and they ended up trading some of it away for a couple low-level Dodgers pitching prospects.

This also happens to be a season where we’ve really seen the limitations of Marco Paddy’s strategy — or the strategy imposed upon Marco Paddy.

In the three seasons after emerging from the two-year penalty they gladly served for blowing out their budget to sign Luis Robert Jr., the White Sox arranged their international classes around the signings of non-teenage Cuban players, and the developments of this year push the White Sox down a road that ends with nothing to show for their efforts.

In reverse chronological order:

2021: Oscar Colás ($2.7M)

The White Sox effectively cut short a disastrous rookie season for Colás by optioning him to Charlotte on Monday, and Pedro Grifol explained the move in no uncertain terms before the White Sox-Royals game was postponed.

‘‘We need him to completely clean up his whole game,’’ Grifol said. ‘‘I’m talking about baserunning, defensively. These are things I’ve spoken about all year. These are not new.’’ […]

‘‘He’s an impactful player,’’ Grifol said. ‘‘He obviously has got the tools to impact this team. However, fundamentally, he still needs a lot of work. He’s got to go down there and take care of those fundamentals.’’

Grifol is correct, although it’d be easier to take him seriously if he applied any similar scrutiny to players with guaranteed contracts. He saves all his hardassery for the guys who haven’t hit arbitration eligibility, and Colás may never reach those years at this rate.

Colás hit .216/.257/.314 over 263 plate appearances, a sample size that puts him just past the halfway point for qualifying for the batting title. That’s bad enough, but throw in the other parts of his game, and he’d be on pace for -3 WAR if he played enough to qualify.

The Sox are so, so thin in the outfield, and Colás still has two options remaining, so it’s premature to write Colás out of future seasons even if he seems like he’s thoroughly entrenched in Grifol’s doghouse. But he also turns 25 on Sunday, so he’s not as young as his mistakes make him look.

2020: Yoelqui Céspedes ($2.05M), Norge Vera ($1.5M)

Céspedes, who turns one year older than Colás one week after his birthday, just made his Triple-A debut on Sunday, and it wasn’t one he earned. He hit .214/.315/.326 in his second full season with Birmingham, and even if you only count the second half (when the Southern League ended its experiment with enhanced-grip baseballs that warped stats in favor of pitchers), his numbers only bump up to .248/.311/.358. He plays decent defense in center and it’s a lot of fun to watch him throw, but an effective offensive approach continues to elude him.

But at least Céspedes looks like a typical minor-league player, even if he’s more of an organizational sort. The Vera who lit up radar guns in the Dominican Summer League two seasons ago has lost both any noteworthy velocity and his concept of the strike zone, perhaps because he also struggles to stay healthy.

White Sox pitching prospect Norge Vera
Norge Vera (Jim Margalus / Sox Machine)

Vera came into the 2023 season motivated to build on his 2022, which had moments to build on despite the fact that he was limited to but a few dozen innings.

After his first season in the United States, the younger Vera has plenty of notes for himself already. He spent most of his offseason training at the team complex in Arizona under close watch, because Vera felt the lat strain that delayed his stateside debut and conspired to hold him to 35 1/3 innings in 2022 (spread out across 13 short starts), was essentially the same injury he had in 2021. He is not interested in a repeat. Vera said he’d like to clear 100 innings in 2023 and a sub-3.00 ERA is another one of his goals. He believes he better understands the work required now.

“You can notice the difference from my other years,” Vera said. Every young player who makes it to the majors goes through a period where the importance of having a strict physical and baseball routine gets drilled home. For Vera, it seems that time for him was the 2022 season, as he returned to the topic repeatedly.

Well, Vera threw just 15 innings in 2023, and in three starts, he couldn’t even complete one inning. He walked five of the six batters he faced in his finale on Sunday, throwing just 10 of 35 pitches for strikes before Guillermo Quiróz pulled the plug.

Vera will enter his age-24 season next year with just 50⅓ stateside innings over two seasons, and he’s walked 52 batters over that period. He went from being a near-consensus top-10 prospect to falling out of top 30s, and I get it. When you see him pitch now, there’s no electricity to be found.

2019: Yolbert Sánchez ($2.5M)

At one point, I thought Sánchez was a near-lock for an audition with the White Sox because of his bat-to-ball abilities, as well as his often-slick defensive play at second base.

Then he reached Triple-A, where International League pitchers have spent the last two years knocking the bat out of his hands. He’s somehow slugged just .336 over 218 games with Charlotte despite playing half his games in the league’s most favorable home run environment.

Yolbert Sanchez (Laura Wolff / Charlotte Knights)

Sánchez will turn 27 next spring, even though it will only be his fourth season stateside, and that illustrates the severe limitations of this particular approach to the international market.

Sánchez spent his age-22 season being way too old for the Dominican Summer League. He did so for tax purposes, but just about every international signing receives that particular financial benefit of making their pro debut in the DSL. Those players just happen to be 16, 17 or 18 years old, so it also makes sense from a developmental standpoint. For the White Sox, it’s wasted time.

That limits the amount of runway a player has before doubts creep in, and Sánchez’s was shortened even further by the canceled season of 2020. By the time he made his stateside debut, he was a 24-year-old with suspect contact quality and no long-term potential at shortstop, so he never got a chance to accrue any sort of trade value, even as a change-of-scenery type. The same thing applied to Céspedes and (to a lesser extent) Vera. The fact that the White Sox signed them inherently suggested that other teams valued them less, so the threat of depreciation is multiplied when they start off struggling.

The White Sox didn’t continue this strategy for a fourth consecutive year based on their 2022-23 international class, but maybe not for a lack of trying. Their biggest signings were teenagers out of the Dominican Republic, but they only required $700,000. Moreover, they signed 25-year-old Cuban Josimar Cousin for $100,000 in May, and then they acquired Aldrin Batista and Máximo Martinez from the Dodgers with a portion of the league-leading $1.41 million they couldn’t figure out how to spend.

That’s why I want to see if there’s indeed a reason why Getz mentioned the international side first. Paddy’s time with the White Sox hasn’t been a failure — it couldn’t possibly be with Robert and José Abreu on his ledger — and he gets points for cleaning up the gigantic mess that preceded him. But once Major League Baseball enacted sufficient punishment to deter teams from paying the most promising international talent whatever the market demanded, it diminished whatever effects Paddy’s pull had, and that strategy doesn’t seem to work with second-tier talent.

Fittingly, that path runs parallel with Rick Hahn’s career. Hahn gained a lot of credibility by striking incredibly valuable contract extensions with the team’s best proven young talent, but once proven young talent started better understanding their worth, the White Sox had to both pay more and pay earlier. That meant the Sox actually incurred some risk this time around, and boy, are they feeling the brunt of that risk.

The White Sox had to move on from Hahn, and now we’ll see if Getz changes course on the international side with regards to Paddy’s position. If things stay the same on that front, Getz should get more questions, and he should prepare answers he can actually articulate.

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Former National’s Assistant GM and international scouting director Johnny DiPuglia could be a hire. Maybe Sam Mondry-Cohen has his number. Also, his Dominican ancestry may get the White Sox some slack for not interviewing any minority GM candidates.

White Sox Wade

Why make an external hire when Jerry’s really making all the decisions anyway?


I doubt Mondry-Cohen is long for this org. Many staffers who’ve come from outside the White Sox circle of trust have left very quickly after seeing the dysfunction in the org, and that was true even when the team was on the upswing and winning.


I would also like a renewed focus on the Pacific Rim teams. Ha-Seong Kim and Seiya Suzuki would look good in White Sox uniforms right now.


I don’t think Seiya Suzuki was anything near a deal. Yes he looked reasonable when the price tag was floating around $8 mil, but the $18 Mil per he eventually got was a gross overpay. I have no problem with the Sox losing out on that.


I mean its only $10M more for Seiya than Benintendi. I would take better bat, better fielding, in RF for $2M more per season.


 it couldn’t possibly be with Robert and José Abreu on his ledger

Sorry but I’m not inclined to give Paddy credit for these. They are hardly scouting finds and Robert was basically a decades worth of International budgets to sign. I would actually give JR the credit on that one if we need to place credit and I loath to give him any.


For $52 million his contacts should’ve been to loan sharks…

If he had a fuller list of successful signings I could see those as carrying more weight but when those 2 are basically it then it’s not that impressive at all.

Alfornia Jones

He’s getting the big dollar contract regardless, being the highest bidder is immaterial. Everything is relationships in the Latin leagues, especially Cuba.


Speaking of the international operation, Brittany Ghiroli interviewed David Wilder today about his time with the White Sox and subsequent prison term. A whole lot there, including this:

The culture starts with the owner. Not many people know that every time Kenny had to do something he had to go into Jerry’s office and ask permission.

So Reinsdorf was a hands-on owner, in your opinion?

He sat in on everything. And if he didn’t, every meeting they’d take notes and give it to Jerry. Minor league coaches, every Latin or Black coach I wanted to bring in, Jerry would — if they weren’t from the White Sox — usually not be interested. In any business you have, if you have someone who has been successful, I want their ideas. He never asked for ideas. He never said, ‘Dave, you were with Atlanta, what were they doing?’ He was too smart. Nothing has changed.

It was Rick and Kenny to some extent, they don’t have the ability to put together a team the proper way. But the only way they had was the “White Sox Way.” They used to talk about that (White Sox Way) all the time.

We had the owner who doesn’t know s— about baseball telling guys what to do. So the right guys got fired, but if I’m the owner of the team and it’s dysfunctional, it comes down on me.


My two takeaways from the interview were that I would not want to employ David Wilder and I would not want to be employed by Jerry Reinsdorf.


He was too smart. Nothing has changed.

I’m going to guess that it should read “He wasn’t too smart”

And yes, it looks like nothing has changed and JR has got himself a new Yes man.

He’s right though in that it first falls on Ken and Rick for enabling this but then I’ve never fallen for the whole “Jerry’s so Loyal” mantra. What good is supposed loyalty if you can’t handle/say No.


I could see that.


Damn it. I let my Athletic subscription run out because they let Fegan go. Now I will miss this and everything from Evan Drellich.


I cancelled my subscription too, it’s fitting that as soon as they let their White Sox reporter go there was a bunch of White Sox-related news and their coverage would have REALLY benefited from having Fegan around.


As I noted in another comment, I canceled my Athletic subscription so I can’t read the entire article, but I will say while I am dubious of Wilder’s credibility on this topic what he is saying strikes me as being true. The problem is, was, and always will be Jerry Reinsdorf. He has an idea of how he would like baseball to operate as a business and works within those parameters, even though it is nothing close to resembling reality. It’s not even resembling a previous era of baseball as far as I can tell either.



White Sox Wade

This disgusts me, and it makes perfect sense. JR has been the man behind the curtain all along. Let’s shine the light where it belongs and hold JR accountable for making bad decision after bad decision. At least Jerry Jones doesn’t hide behind spineless lackeys with big titles. Good luck Getz, you’re in an impossible position.


The only person who can hold JR accountable is JR. What I wonder is whether he understands the effect he has had. When I hear him talk about how the core is in place to compete next season, I don’t think he does.


I’ve posted this before, but I know an agent who has confirmed the first part of that interview.
The Sox are the only MLB team where ANY contract agreement between the GM and agent isn’t official, no matter how small, until the owner is filled-in and gives his blessing.

Trooper Galactus

Wilder somehow manages to hit the nail on the head while coming off as an unrepentant asshole.


I hope Getz has convinced Jerry they need to get up to speed in Asia. If they want some quick fixes for this terrible roster, that’s where it can be done without grossly overpaying.


25 y/o available this offseason:

  • SP Yoshinobu Yamamoto 
  • Jung Hoo Lee, CF/RF

I am curious whether the success of the DSL team this year is indicative of any change of approach. They presumably did not have any super prospects that teams have to make deals with as young kids, but their best hitters were almost all 17 and had good BB/K ratios. DSL stats are far from predictive and we don’t get much public scouting of the players there, but it was a nice change of pace.


White Sox Way cries out for a T-shirt….

Trooper Galactus

The White Sox Way is a circular flow chart of a guy peeing into a glass then drinking it.

Alfornia Jones

Cuba is a weird market, maybe they need to sign the lemons to get access to Abreu and Robert. Those two signings were worth throwing money away at the other players, even Viciedo. The real failure is not filling out the rest of the roster, and not investing more in the Dominican/Venezuela markets. I think they are money ahead for Cuba, but it makes more sense to spend more overall but less on each deal in DR/VEN.

I’m glad they are singling Colas out and humiliating him. This needs to happen more, they can’t do it with the veteran players with guaranteed money, so I’m all for it when they have the chance. If they do it right, he should not see the MLB roster next year and not get an invite to spring training. It doesn’t matter anymore if Colas becomes a real player, so I’m all for them holding him hostage in Triple A like Rusney Castillo.


Those two signings were worth throwing money away at the other players, even Viciedo.

Why do you say that? They got both of those two by being the highest bidder and in the case of Robert by a huge amount. There were no other signing needed to be the highest bidder.
I find the Cuba market weird for the Sox in that it’s considerably overpriced as the $2.5 Mil for Sanchez should indicate so I’m not sure why JR has any affinity to it other than Minny Minoso. Then again, maybe that’s enough for him.


For the same reason that this team favored high-floor college players in the draft until Colson Montgomery. They’re (theoretically) closer to the MLB and can fill a spot on the roster for a lower cost than your typical FA.

If it’s one thing that’s clear, Jerry/RH/KW love to cut corners. Let’s see if Getz is the same.


Yep I think you are right. JR goes with that old school thinking that any $$$ not spent on the MLB club is wasted money. It explains so much.

Josh Nelson

What impeccable timing of this column, Jim (regarding Wilder interview).

The Chicago White Sox need an International Draft. I’m not saying MLB needs one, I think it’s debatable, but the White Sox need it.

Trooper Galactus

Yes, that way they can screw up twice as many drafts!


They need a better owner.

Greg Nix

Unrelated, but just want to note the Cubs called up a top prospect to replace their struggling journeyman centerfielder.

That struggling journeyman centerfielder has a higher OPS than Andrew Benintendi.

Carry on.




I knew that prospect’s father in high school. Western burbs. Great guy
His promotion was a serious damn I’m old moment.

Last edited 10 days ago by PauliePaulie

I want to believe Getz will fix the areas listed, but also don’t think he knows how to. It’s easy to list the things he believes needs to be improved, the actual answers to those are going to be harder to find solutions when the team is notoriously constrained by ownership. Hope I’m wrong though


It’s easy to list the things that need to be improved because he listed every aspect of baseball operations.

Root Cause

There are so many hurtles for Getz to clear. He has never seen how a well-run business operates. Even if he has a plan and can execute it, (both sound pretty iffy) we are still left with a GM who will be self-taught. And as the saying goes, “He who is self-taught, has a fool for a mentor”.
At best, this will be a long ride.


It could be so much worse. We could be the Mets where they have the quaint idea that going outside the organization to hire a head of baseball operations who has been dramatically successful at that very job makes more sense than promoting someone who failed at directing baseball development in the minor league to move up to running the whole show. They’ll probably even give Stearns a budget to improve the team and overall operations. How old-fashioned can you get?


We don’t need these fancy analytics like the number 91 or 89 (the number of wins the Os and Rays have), I’d much rather have some ‘baseball players’, guys who like to get their uniforms dirty.


Didn’t you know that when Stearns got hire in Milwaukee, they had to find new office space for all the people he hired, to have a modern MLB Front Office. That would never fly with JR.


He openly mocked the idea at that Milken institute speech he did earlier this year. lmao.

As Cirensica

I have always thought the Cuban influx was another aspect of how limited (and somewhat lazy) RH and KW baseball brains were. They saw the success with Abreu, Moncada, and Robert, and all the sudden, they prioritize Cubans over true scouting.


Been getting the same feeling from their draft scouting. Too many draftees who had a good cape cod showing, and not much else, or from a tiny range of regions or schools.


And scouting the College World Series with a streaming subscription is just as good as being there!


**laughs in Jared Mitchell**


Just draft the state of Indiana and call it a day.