Chris Getz is in a terrible position.
On the one hand, no matter how often or deep you dive into the Chicago White Sox 40-man roster and development pipeline, it’s hard to see this team bouncing back from a 101-loss season. There’s a severe lack of impact talent, and I question the desire of some players’ willingness not just to help turn things around but also to stay with the White Sox. There’s half a roster before this offseason starts, and maybe half of those players are worth keeping for a team wanting to contend in 2024.
On the other hand, Getz’s boss is still Jerry Reinsdorf. At age 87, The Chairman doesn’t want to rebuild and wants to win in 2024. Is Reinsdorf willing to set aside his personal preferences and pay market rates for premium talent? Probably not. Will Reinsdorf allow Getz to exceed Luxury Tax thresholds to build an overnight winner? Again, probably not.
So Getz has to build a roster that can convince his boss the White Sox will contend for the 2024 AL Central title with a budget at or below what Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams had the past two seasons. While also revamping the player pipeline in the minors, that can help with future seasons. But a general manager can’t do that by trading top prospects away for veteran talent. Oh, and the interest in what the White Sox currently have outside of Luis Robert Jr. and Dylan Cease is very minimal.
The only way to accomplish this task is for Reinsdorf to let Getz spend crazy this offseason, much like the Mets and Padres did last year. Sure, it didn’t work for those teams, but heavy spending has helped the Texas Rangers transition from a 100+ loss team to the American League champs (perhaps more) this season. Anything short of that is equivalent to throwing darts at the board with a blindfold, especially with this year’s free agency class.
There’s one position player that would greatly help the White Sox in 2024, and that’s outfielder Cody Bellinger. Yes, Shohei Ohtani would help offensively, but with the elbow injury, he won’t help with the White Sox pitching or defensive woes this season. Starting in 2025 and beyond, Ohtani would solve many of the White Sox problems if he can bounce back from Tommy John surgery. As we’ve recently seen from White Sox pitchers, it’s not a foregone conclusion to return to the previous operating state. Besides, Reinsdorf already nixed the Ohtani idea while announcing Getz as the new GM.
The White Sox need help with on-base percentage, slugging, defense, base running, starting pitching, and mindset. That’s all.
Putting myself into Getz’s shoes with this offseason plan exercise, I don’t envy him. Trying to build a winner in 2024 without sacrificing the future will require a tremendous amount of luck in short-term free-agent signings and bounce-back seasons from players currently on the roster. It’s not impossible, but it’s highly improbable.
- Dylan Cease: $8.8M – TENDER
- Andrew Vaughn: $3.7M – TENDER
- Michael Kopech: $3.6M – TENDER; Move to bullpen
- Touki Toussaint: $1.7M – TENDER
- Trayce Thompson: $1.7M – NON-TENDER
- Garrett Crochet: $900K – TENDER
- Clint Frazier: $900K – NON-TENDER
- Matt Foster: $740K – NON-TENDER; Invite to Spring Training
- Tim Anderson: $14M ($1M buyout) – DECLINE
If you listen to the Sox Machine Podcast, we’ve spent a few episodes discussing this upcoming decision. Before the 2023 season, I thought the White Sox should sign Tim Anderson to a long-term contract that matched what previous free agent shortstops received. Boy, did that take spoil like expired milk.
Anderson is a defensive liability at shortstop, and his offensive approach is lacking. I’m not sure who got into his ear before the 2022 season, convincing Anderson to focus on hitting singles to right field, but I hope they are no longer part of the White Sox organization. What made Anderson dangerous in 2019 to 2021 was his slugging ability.
Now Anderson is a single-only hitter with no power, nor does he run and steal bases at a high clip. That type of hitter does not work in today’s baseball.
So, while Anderson goes on a baseball spiritual journey this offseason to rediscover himself, the White Sox have to make a business decision. Anderson is not worth $14 million for 2024, nor do I think he should be the starting shortstop. What complicates this decision is how terrible the free agent market is for middle infielders.
There’s a good chance letting Anderson go and swapping him with a free-agent middle infielder will make no difference in overall impact. But it’ll be cheaper and easier to ditch that new shortstop aside for Colson Montgomery when he’s ready for the majors. That seems to be the White Sox plan anyway. Save the money, and if Anderson is still available on February 1, sign him to a one-year deal to play second base.
- Liam Hendriks: $15M ($15M buyout, paid $1.5M annually over next 10 years) – DECLINE
When it comes to Hendriks, this decision is really up to Reinsdorf. With the rehab from Tommy John surgery, Hendriks won’t be back until August, if lucky. He’ll be put on the 60-day IL to start the season, which doesn’t take up a 40-man roster spot. It’s just a matter of whether Reinsdorf wants to pay $15 million to a pitcher who might not pitch in 2024 or pay him $1.5 million over the next decade.
Again, I don’t envy Getz with this job. It’ll be tough for a White Sox fan base to accept the team declining Hendriks club option while he survived cancer. Hendriks was one of the few bright spots and continues to be a beacon of hope for those impacted by cancer.
From a business perspective, I think the White Sox should pay Hendriks the deferred amount while allowing him to use the facilities at Glendale for rehab. Now, I see a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers (who share that same facility in Glendale with the White Sox) going after Hendriks as a free agent to sign a pillow contract deal.
- Mike Clevinger: $12M mutual option ($4 million buyout) – BUYOUT
I think Mike Clevinger takes the $4 million and adds to his new contract with whatever team that’ll guarantee a deal through 2025.
OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS
- Yasmani Grandal (Made $18.25M in 2023) – LET GO
Contrary to popular belief, Yasmani Grandal was not the worst free agent signing in White Sox history.
- Elvis Andrus ($3M) – INTERESTED IN BRINGING BACK
Using 2023 numbers, Elvis Andrus is the best available middle infield free agent. That speaks volumes to how weak this class of free agents is and the challenges to find rapid improvement for the White Sox. If Andrus is game to come back for similar money to hold down the shortstop position until Colson Montgomery is ready, I’m game. If Andrus is not interested in coming back, I don’t blame him.
- Bryan Shaw ($720K) – INTERESTED IN BRINGING BACK
Greatly depends on how much Bryan Shaw is willing to sign for but the man has a rubber arm.
José Ureña ($720K) – LET GO
* * * * * * * * *
Now that the internal decisions have been made, it’s time to start improving this team for 2024.
We can skip the trade ideas for my plan. I don’t see a need for the White Sox to move their existing prospects for veteran talent, and I don’t see any other MLB teams willing to part with their prospects or young talent for the White Sox best players or underachievers (Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada).
- Fire Pedro Grifol and hire Craig Counsell to a 4 year, $20 million contract
Pedro Grifol’s ongoing quest of culture building is better suited for running a college baseball program than a major league team. Culture is a great selling point to teenagers on recruiting trips. Professional baseball players want money and the chance to win.
The whole point of bringing Grifol in to replace Tony La Russa was to immediately connect with the existing roster and adjust to bounce back. Grifol didn’t accomplish that goal; he might have made things worse with a lack of desire to call out veteran players for poor play but was willing to call out rookies publically. Last year’s White Sox roster did not respond to Grifol, and the effort was apparent on the field.
Turning a free agent on October 31, Craig Counsell is talking to other teams about their managerial opening. Hailing from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, it makes sense for Counsell to stay in Milwaukee and continue the excellent work he’s done for the Brewers. In the last six 162-game seasons (excluding the 2020 season), the Milwaukee Brewers are averaging 90.6 wins under Counsell. Could you imagine the White Sox having that kind of run?
Not only are the Brewers winning under Counsell, but they are exceeding their expected win total.
To stay in Milwaukee, I imagine Counsell wants to be paid what he’s worth. The top-paid managers are getting $4+ million a season, and I think Counsell is worth that. Are the Brewers front office and ownership willing to pay Counsell that much? That’s probably why he’s talking to Cleveland and New York Mets about their job opening.
The White Sox should be involved, too. Only a few managers get more out of their roster than Counsell has in Milwaukee. With a proven track record, maybe it’s Counsell who can help unlock the potential of Moncada and Jimenez to join Robert in becoming All-Stars, getting Andrew Vaughn to meet his potential, coaching up the middle infield prospects, or making the right bullpen choices.
There are a lot of ways Counsell can better manage the White Sox than Grifol. I wouldn’t use the “Well, we are already paying La Russa and Grifol manager salaries” excuse. If it’s all about winning, admit that Grifol is not the guy and move on. I’d feel much better about the White Sox chances of bouncing back under Counsell than Grifol.
- Sign LHP Jordan Montgomery to a 4 year, $92 million + 5th year Club Option for $23 million (or $4 million buyout)
Breaking the largest free agent signing record and potentially becoming the first $100 million contract in franchise history, I’m aiming for Jordan Montgomery.
Montgomery has been excellent in 2023 for St. Louis and Texas. He finished with a 4.3 WAR campaign, according to FanGraphs, with a 3.20 ERA and 4.04 FIP. More importantly, Montgomery went 188.2 innings in 32 starts. That type of quality workload is what the White Sox need in the immediate and near future.
Even with the frustrations of Dylan Cease struggling to get through five innings per appearance, he takes the ball every fifth day. Right now, the White Sox only have one dependable starting pitcher they can count on making 30+ starts in 2024. Cease needs help, and Montgomery has three consecutive seasons of making 30+ starts with an increase in innings.
2021: 30 GS | 157.1 IP | 3.83 ERA for New York Yankees
2022: 32 GS | 178.1 IP | 3.48 ERA for New York Yankees / St. Louis Cardinals
2023: 32 GS | 188.2 IP | 3.20 ERA for St. Louis Cardinals / Texas Rangers
A big part of the Rangers postseason success, Montgomery was great against Houston in the ALCS and pitched seven scoreless innings against Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round. Yes, the Baltimore Orioles beat up Montgomery in the ALDS, and his World Series start against Arizona failed to generate many whiffs. Still, Montgomery has shown his desire to grind when the team needs him. That is a quality attribute and he’s now got a World Series ring to show for that effort.
Starting pitching pricing is wildly inflated, with 1 WAR starting pitchers going for $10 to $12 million per season these days. My contract offer is similar to what the Seattle Mariners signed LHP Robbie Ray after the 2021 season. Ray does have a player opt-out after the 2024 season with two years and $50 million left on the original deal. After missing the 2023 season due to Tommy John surgery, it’s probably unlikely Ray will opt out.
If Montgomery were interested in signing with the White Sox on a similar deal, having a player opt-out after Year 3, I don’t know how Reinsdorf says “No.” An opportunity to finally quiet a fanbase clamoring for a big signing with a chance not to have to pay the original total amount? That’s right up Reinsdorf’s alley.
For now, I’ll stick with four guaranteed years plus a club option for a fifth-year.
2024: $21 million
2025: $23 million
2026: $24 million
2027: $24 million
2028 (Club Option): $23 million or $4 million buyout
Hiring Counsell and signing Montgomery are the big moves. Now let’s go to the clearance rack to build out the rest of this roster.
- Gary Sanchez, Catcher – 1 year, $4 million (Club Option for ‘25)
- Kevin Kiermaier, Right Field – 1 year, $9 million (Club Option for ‘25)
- Paul DeJong, Shortstop – 1 year, $7 million
- Tony Kemp, Second Base – 1 year, $3.5 million
- Alex Wood, Left-handed Pitcher – 1 year, $12 million (Club Option for ‘25)
- Kenta Maeda, Right-handed Pitcher – 1 year, $12 million (Club Option for ‘25)
Yeah, these are some names. Going the short-term rental route makes these players trade targets if they have an excellent first half for the White Sox, but the team is not within striking distance of a division title.
Let’s start with the position players. While declining Tim Anderson’s contract and not bringing back Elvis Andrus, I’m letting go of the worst middle infield in Major League Baseball.
By signing Paul DeJong and Tony Kemp, it’s still the worst middle infield in Major League Baseball but cheaper (I can hear your laughter).
I don’t know what happened to DeJong, who clubbed 74 home runs from 2017 to 2019 and had better than league average wRC+, but I know he’s a better defensive shortstop than Anderson. If DeJong still doesn’t hit but can help improve the White Sox defense until Montgomery is ready, that’s fine. Signing Kemp is for the vibes and aids the White Sox walk rate (Career 10.1%).
Kevin Kiermaier might win the Gold Glove in 2023 for his center field play, but I would move him over to right field with this plan. Offensively, Kiermaier’s wRC+ will range from 85 to 105 in 2024 with fewer than ten home runs. So, while the hitting impact will be limited, Kiermaier would greatly help the White Sox outfield defense.
Initially, I had Mitch Garver as my catching target for the White Sox. After discussing with Jim Margalus in our Trick or Treat podcast episode, he’s right that Garver isn’t much of a catcher anymore. Gary Sanchez has improved his defense since leaving New York and can provide a much-needed thump in the lineup. Korey Lee still gets 50+ starts in 2024, but Sanchez would carry the starting workload.
To help fill out the rotation, I’ve decided to go with the more veteran route by adding Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood. Both pitchers have come from successful organizations and would provide Brian Bannister a chance to work with Ethan Katz on finding a dead cat bounce performance. Neither Maeda nor Wood throws hard, but each is effective in their way.
Wood is still tough on lefties, even though he didn’t put up a high K% total against them in 2023 (17.4%, down from 28.3% in 2022). Yet, opposing left-handers only hit .243/.331/.350 in 2023, and if Wood finds his 2022 self, he can post even better numbers (.193/.228/.235 vs. LH in 2022). It’s facing righties that should worry fans about Wood.
Maeda has only made 41 starts in the last two seasons, pitching 210.2 innings. While he can’t be counted on handling an entire season’s workload, Maeda is still posting an impressive K% rate (27.3%) while keeping a low BB% rate (6.5%). Give Katz and the White Sox pitchers credit for being a Top-10 team in strikeouts last year. What they need help with is adding pitchers who keep walks to a minimum.
From a content-producing perspective, my offseason plan would keep everyone at Sox Machine busy by hiring a new manager and seven free-agent signings. It’d make the winter go by quickly for everyone involved, and for White Sox fans, that would be welcomed.
As a “Will this get the White Sox back to a position to challenge the Minnesota Twins?” perspective, I’m not even entirely sold. The starting rotation would be better if everyone stays healthy (big ask, I know). Defensively, the team should be better, which aids the pitching staff. So maybe the run-prevention side gets closer to limiting opponents to 4.5 runs per game.
Offensively, Sanchez would help in the home run department, but Kiermaier, DeJong, and Kemp don’t help a great deal. For the White Sox to up their run total will largely depend on Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez. Can they finally live up to their potential? Will Andrew Vaughn pick up his production at first base? Is Andrew Benintendi going to live up to his end of the contract?
Those four position players have to be better in 2024 for the White Sox to have any shot of winning the division. Outside of Montgomery, the rest of these additions are to buy time for the new White Sox front office to develop the younger talent. Hopefully, a wave of fresh faces will be ready for 2025.
Offseason Plan Lineup:
|3||Luis Robert Jr.||CF||R|
26-Man Payroll Budget: $180,603,000