Michael Soroka, Nicky Lopez show limits of White Sox optimism

New White Sox infielder Nicky Lopez
Nicky Lopez (Photo by Robert Edwards/USA TODAY Sports)

Michael Soroka and Nicky Lopez took their turns introducing themselves to the Chicago media after joining the White Sox in that six-player trade with the Braves, and they showed the pockets where optimism can flourish, and how it’s going to be hard sell everywhere else.

The White Sox are perfect for a guy like Soroka, who needs as forgiving an environment as possible in order to make a full return from two torn Achilles after a forearm strain interrupted his attempt last year with the Braves.

Not only do the White Sox offer all-you-can-eat innings, but they’re whenever-you-can-eat innings, too, which works for Soroka in his final year before free agency. Moreover, with Brian Bannister now directing the White Sox’s large-scale pitching efforts, there’s a little added credibility the team didn’t possess before.

Therefore, I read Soroka’s enthusiasm about coming to the South Side being genuine, even if it’s a sharp drop down an elevator shaft going from the Braves to the White Sox.

“And then the (call) after that with (Sox general manager) Chris Getz, they stressed how excited they were about me and that made me feel awesome. That was a nice little boost of confidence to get somewhere that I think believes in me.” […]

“I’m very excited having listened to some of the new people that are moving into the White Sox organization,” Soroka said. “It’s an exciting thing and I can’t wait to get out there.

“They see my potential and everybody in the organization seems to be wanting to extract the most out of that right now and down the line. I’m very excited to get to work. These people seem awesome.”

If everything goes well, Soroka will pitch every five or six days, and he has no effect on the four games in between. Pitchers’ performances are neatly contained like that, which is why a like Zack Greinke can win the Cy Young for a team that went 65-97, while MVP candidates are tied to the quality of their teammates. That just makes it harder to speak for the team, which is why pitchers aren’t seen as the first choice for clubhouse leaders, but since Soroka is mainly spending 2024 trying to get right for the open market, the state of the team can be a secondary concern.

Lopez, who figures to be out there more often than not, tried his hand at making a bigger statement about the 2024 White Sox. The problem is that without a whole lot of evident talent, he just ends up sounding like Pedro Grifol.

“Just the vision of playing hard baseball,” Lopez said over Zoom on Tuesday. “A hard 90, playing 110 percent, creating an identity that we’re going to play the game hard, [that] we’re going to do the little things right. We’re going to pick it. We’re going to throw it.

“All this stuff is obviously cliché when you’re talking about winning baseball. But l’ve seen this team be really, really successful being across the diamond and playing against them for the last five years. And not many of it is different. The team is not different. … It’s just maybe a cultural change, or maybe it’s a change of the way that we believe in ourselves or think. Mentality is a big thing.”

During Lopez’s time in Kansas City, the Royals won at a .388 clip, good for a 63-99 record over 162 games. The Braves rescued him at the deadline, and he held down the fort during an Ozzie Albies injury. He’s trying to make the experience a profound one:

“Even though I was there for a half year, it was a huge learning experience for me,” Lopez said. “The thing about the Atlanta Braves is they play the same lineup every single day. I was fortunate enough to get some playing time when Ozzie Albies went down (with a strained left hamstring in August), but I learned so much from that staff, from those players and about what winning baseball is like.

“And being able to experience my first playoffs was something special. Once you kind of get a taste of playoff baseball, you don’t want to experience anything else. And so that’s why coming here, whether it’s a cultural change, whether it’s something in the clubhouse that we can change, I’m looking forward to trying to help that both in the clubhouse and on the field.”

The problem isn’t Lopez saying this, because a fringe starter has to use every potential avenue to justify his playing time.

The problem is that the White Sox are so adrift that a signing like Lopez is expected to speak for the team’s direction, and a player like Lopez should never define a team. You can talk all you want about establishing culture, but at least some talent has to be in place first because a culture without wins is like faith without works.

The record provides the credibility, and the talent dictates the record, so the biggest names almost always drive the agenda. The little things are the little things because they’re little. If they made a huge difference, they’d be big things. Jerry Reinsdorf loves to talk about David Eckstein, but Eckstein only rose onto Reinsdorf’s radar because he spent his peak years in a lineup featuring four Hall of Famers, and five if you think Jim Edmonds got a raw deal.

Lopez can make a positive impact on the White Sox if he plays defense the way he always has, and his BABIP allows him to get on base enough for an OBP approaching average. He can demand more from his teammates if he maxes out his skill set, but as his time in KC shows, it won’t matter if there isn’t more to give. Lopez might say about the White Sox that “the team is not different” than the one he faced in the AL Central, but it is. When the White Sox acquired him, he was taking the place of Tim Anderson. I’m not sure how much more different you can get.

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Right Size Wrong Shape

The fact that the Sox are even trotting these guys out in front of the media like they matter is depressing. On an average team they would just be fighting for a roster spot.

hitlesswonder

I think the moves were nicely clarifying for Sox fans. They almost assuredly are not going to sign someone like Sonny Gray and try to compete for the division. They are going to fill the starting rotation with kopech, touki, soroka, shuster, and some probably some cast off who will released in June to bring up Nastrini.

They probably will sign Merrifield and trade for Sal Perez and talk about how the culture change means they are competing. And it’s all going to be farcical.

Window open or closed, the Sox approach is mostly the same. Pretend to compete and make laughably cheap free agent acquisitions like Machados best friends.

Last edited 3 months ago by hitlesswonder
gar ridge

Agree with everything here / but this subtext was actually made text in today’s SoxTalk podcast – Nightengale laid out the ‘logic’ of a large payroll cut essentially because too few people came out to watch a shitty team. Our Jim has framed it many times / Jerry will never view spending money to make money as good business.

upnorthsox

Why sign Merrifield or trade for Perez if they are not going to compete. that would be a waste of $30 million.

As Cirensica

I said it before. They aren’t signing neither of those two players. That is just fodder for dour Sox fans. Those two player makes zero sense in what Getz says he wants to do, and has been doing.

Matt Verplaetse

Ah yes, and the White Sox are well known for making only sensible player personnel moves.

Trooper Galactus

I think Getz is past pretending they’re going to compete, though I fully expect him to pay lip service to it.

As Cirensica

Jim Edmonds got a raw deal. What a player.

FishSox

Cliche culture… That’s my expectation for our 2024 White Sox.

Willardmarshall

Faith without works. There you go….

roke1960

It is now readily apparent that Jerry is one of the dumbest people on the planet or a big liar (most likely both). In introducing Getz, he said 2023 was the worst season he’s experienced, that they’re not rebuilding and that they expect to compete this year. The only way to compete this year is to spend, spend, spend to get some real talent. But, of course, Jerry is going to slash payroll because the fans didn’t come out last year. I’m guessing the payroll will be somewhere below $150M, and that Paul Dejong will be one of his bigger signings. I am so sick of Jerry- he just needs to go away.

Right Size Wrong Shape

He also said that he really likes their core. Was he referring to Luis Robert, Jr.? Because everyone else with talent is either gone or on their way out.

The core is a peach pit.

Trooper Galactus

The Core is also a horrible movie, which seems analogous to the current state of affairs.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Wait until those guys have played a couple months of games under Grifol, as part of the worst roster they’ve ever imagined being on. Let’s see what their “optimism” and “play hard” bs narratives sound like then.

Hulksmash

I guess I’m reading these deals an entirely different way. Look, I’m as cynical about this organization as they they come, but one of Getz’s first orders of business has to be building credibility. The Sox culture isn’t toxic–it’s radioactive. If departing players are shredding this team publicly, and fairly regularly, what do you think they’re saying to each other behind closed doors?

This is a team marred by bad attitudes, lazy play, and a dysfunctional <ducks for cover> culture. Getz has to bring in players who are going to bring with them positive vibes and good work ethics in the hopes of rising the Sox out of the dumpster.

We can all wring our hands about the quality of players Getz is bringing in, but (unless it’s a trade), acquisitions are a two-way street. Given how terrible the Sox have been, in every imaginable regard, what player with real value and in their right mind would actually want to come here?

Right Size Wrong Shape

If they acted like a team in the third largest media market in the country and offered players a lot of money, they would happily come. Instead we have press conferences to celebrate (checks notes) Nicky Lopez and Mike Soroka. The Rangers sucked. Then they went out and signed Semien, Seager, deGrom, Botche, etc., etc.

Hulksmash

Hey, look–like I said, I’m deeply cynical about this organization. I’m going to dance on Reinsdorf’s grave. But, I can also see the 1,000 foot view and realize, first of all, the free agent class isn’t that strong this season. And, to be honest, I don’t think good players would come here for the money at this point (paging AJ Pollock). If they’re good, they’re surely getting comparable offers from teams that aren’t the punchline of the league/didn’t lose 100 games.

To be clear: I’m not wild about these moves. My only hope is that they’re baby steps that’ll take us–please, dear God, please–closer to being a legitimate franchise again. Getz can build back some credibility and then try to make a big splash…at which point Reinsdorf will handcuff him with maximum 3-year deals that only relievers will take, and it’ll be 2021 all over again.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I fail to see how Lopez and DeJong make any difference toward credibility or legitimacy. How many more Harrison/Andrus/Leury types do we need to see? Lopez for Bummer was a decent albeit insignificant trade, but DeJong represents more of the same in the direction of pointless and wasteful. Neither of those guys is going to be part of the next decent team they have, bottom line. Unless Sosa starts from opening day on anyway, getting anybody like DeJong to start in front of him is just more stupid nonsense.

To make this a legit franchise would require a legit owner, who can then hire a legit GM, and legit manager. Jerry has been a god awful owner for way too long and has gotten worse as he’s aged, which makes this org pretty much an illegitimate joke with no credibility until he is gone.

Hulksmash

Look, we can all post “bUT JerRy sUcKS WhO CAreS” until he’s dead and gone and for years after. He does suck. We hate him. But pointing that out with endless hopelessness gets banal at a certain point.

If you think there’s no hope for this team to be legitimate then, no, you’re not going to see any path, other than Jerry’s death, to correcting that. I think my points why these moves can possibly (key word: possibly) clean up the way other players view the Sox are valid. It’s baby steps.

Also, as other posters have pointed out: there’s basically no middle infield class and, personally, I think a lot of people are underestimating the odds that Sosa gets 300 ABs and hits .140.

DeJong is here to keep Montgomery’s seat warm, prevent runs from being scored, and be treated like/act like a pro while doing it. I just don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world, all things considered.

vanillablue

I mean, it is possible to get players who “act like pros” and “play the right way” and are also good at baseball.

Hulksmash

You could, but see my point above. Which of them want to come play for this team as it stands right now? If you’re good, you’re getting offers for more than one team. They’re probably all comparable.

It stands to reason that the queue of good players looking to play for the Sox in ’24 is a short and orderly one. I don’t think this is hard to understand.

Matt Verplaetse

Players want to go play for the teams that pay them the most money. This team’s self-imposed spending limitations are what have held it back for years, and apparently that’s not changed with Jerry reportedly slashing payroll significantly. However, if they simply had the desire to sign good players, they could.

Hulksmash

Dude…no. If a competent and functional team and the Sox both offer a good player similar contracts, that player is going with the former team. Every time. Full stop. The Sox would have to wildly overpay to get anyone worth value given their current reputation and overall quality.

And, again, we can KEEP pointing to the past and spending limitations but, man…doesn’t it just get exhausting at a certain point? And I guess I have to say it AGAIN–I’m as cynical about this team as anyone, but I can also look at these moves and see that maybe–just maybe–they’re taking this team in the right direction.

Or, we can all keep whining about Getz getting hired, Jerry being cheap, Getz’s first two moves not fixing a deeply broken organization in one swoop, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Last edited 3 months ago by Hulksmash
Matt Verplaetse

No one asked for the team to be fixed in fell swoop, so you can spare yourself the time arguing against strawmen.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of baseball player movement will tell you that players nearly universally play where they get the best deal, with minimal exceptions.

The moves that have been made so far likely have no impact on winning in the short or long term. Forgive those of us who aren’t on the Getz bandwagon after he acquired multiple glove-only utility guys, one of whom may not have been offered a major league contract by any other team in baseball.

StockroomSnail

Disagreeing with you isn’t whining.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Not hiring a real GM and instead promoting Getz was a big moment/decision. Just like hiring Tony, I don’t think they will escape paying a heavy price for that. Hiring a real GM and replacing Grifol with a good manager would have had a bigger impact on credibility than these two moves, and more nauseating culture talk.

There are things Getz can do to build credibility, such as getting a good return for Cease and others, not wasting a lot of money stupidly ahead of a couple throw away seasons, drafting well, getting some real success at the MLB level from their minor league players, firing Grifol early next season, hiring a solid manager, and convincing his boss to let him sign a couple players much better and more expensive than Benintendi or Grandal in 2-4 years. Jerry won’t fire Getz until 2033, so he’ll have plenty of time to prove naysayers wrong. Or not. Just like with Hahn, Jerry will hold a lot of Getz’ fate in his hands. If he isn’t allowed to exceed the free agent thresholds/quality that Hahn had, then the cards are stacked massively against him.

Hulksmash

Yes. We all know these things. But this is where we’re at. So, it’s a matter of optics. You can keep pointing to the bad, the woulda shouldas, keep griping about Jerry, or you can try glean some kind of positive.

The Bummer trade, IMO, is good. Signing DeJong to bridge the gap to Montgomery, to me, isn’t the end of the world (and I still think it allows the mediocre pack of Romy, Sosa, etc. to get their playing time), and, uh…it’s 11/23. The offseason has barely started. You seem to keep skipping over me saying the I’m very cynical about this team, and I remain so. But I do think these first two moves mark incremental progress.

Here’s the thing: This team, currently, is in the depths of hell. They suck and they’re a mockery. No big ticket player is going to come here, meaning there’s no white knight that’s going to come and save this team. It’s going to be step by painful step to turn this trash heap around. To me, these two moves represent those steps.

Will Getz continue to make steps that take the team forward? I don’t know; I can’t see the future. But so far, I’m no infuriated by what the team’s doing, which is all the victory I can hope for at this point.

As Cirensica

+1 all your comments Hulksmash. You make a lot of sense to me. This is a team marred by players with the wrong attitude. Players that have been in this team for years, and they might not change the way they approach the game. They have been getting free passes from the Hahn/KW administration.

Jim M has discussed that here in various opportunities. A complacency attitude where players think they are better than anyone by just thinking they have “baseball talent” and they don’t need to prepare themselves. Jose Abreu’s comment was spot on: “we are not as younger as we think” (paraphrasing). Players came to play thinking “I’m good”. Ran a couple of 100 meters dash, and their hamstrings suddenly blew up.

I think Getz is trying to change that, and the faster and more efficient way to do so is getting rid of those players. I fully expect Eloy to be traded. And I also think Getz is gonna try his best to trade Moncada.

Last edited 3 months ago by As Cirensica
Hulksmash

Totally agree. I think the turnover is going to be big this season.

It’s sad to say, but if the Sox can get through 2024 playing respectable baseball–no consistent baserunning mistakes, no boneheaded goofs, and field MLB-level defense–and not have any public embarrassments, that’s actually a big victory.

If Getz can give us that…I’d actually be pretty content. And I think he needs to lay that kind of foundation (that Sox can behave and play like an MLB team) in order to move toward contending.

Matt Verplaetse

I just won’t root for chaotic, directionless roster turnover like some of all you seem content to do. So far, there haven’t been any pieces added that improve the fate of the team in the near or long term, so why exactly should I buy into this performative optimism?

Hulksmash

Then don’t root for them. No one’s forcing you to. The same door you came in is the same door you can go right back out.

Matt Verplaetse

Awesome response. People who aren’t fired up the latest light hitting utility infielder additions need to turn in their fan cards, according to you? Great take.

Hulksmash

This will be my last reply to you–but no one is fired up. We’re lukewarm, at best, and giving a the smallest benefit of the doubt. I said earlier that I’ll be dancing on Jerry’s grave, which doesn’t scream “fired up” to me.

Also–I literally used to work in professional baseball, so please don’t explain to me how deals work. If it’s the difference of a few million dollars in the scope of tens of millions and a future of potential prosperity vs. a future of likely despair (which is all the Sox can offer right now), players–good, in-demand players–aren’t taking the despair. They’re just not. You don’t have to believe me, but I know it to be true.

Last edited 3 months ago by Hulksmash
Matt Verplaetse

Whew, I’m glad you allowed me not to believe you, because I definitely don’t.

FishSox

Weren’t you the guy just making declarations about what you will and won’t root for?

It sure came off like you were insinuating that others that don’t subscribe to your beliefs are somehow inferior.

Matt Verplaetse

haha, ok, if that’s what you read into it, feel free. I’m not the one telling anyone else to turn in their fan card because they’re not excited about the latest negative WAR “addition” to the roster.

DBTH35

No Matt, you’re the guy who took Hulk’s comment “I do think these first two moves mark incremental progress” and passive aggressively characterized it as “people who aren’t fired up the latest light hitting utility infielder additions need to turn in their fan cards.” You’re coming across as triggered when you have to misrepresent the comment to fit your argument.

670WMAQtheElder

I think Hulksmash is making good points. Getz is doing what he said he’d do. Better defense up the middle. The off season isn’t over. More deals to come. And top tier free agents want to play for a winner and get top dollar. Both. The Sox are not winners right now. They are a 101 loss team.

As Cirensica

I am aligned with this train of thought. Well said +1

Hulksmash

Thanks! I’m surprising myself, haha. But I can actually see some kind of logic at work with what Getz seems to be doing–and it’s been a long time since I was able to say that about this team!

Matt Verplaetse

All Getz has done is dump Bummer for a bunch of lottery tickets who were on their way to being non-tendered and sign another utility infielder who cannot hit. So what logic, exactly?

GrinnellSteve

I, too, am aligned. Incremental steps.

I’m reading Chili Dog MVP about that magical 1972 season. It was 2 years removed from the 106-loss team of 1970. Of course, there are many differences in the two circumstances, but it’s interesting to read about the transactions that helped turn them into contenders. A lot of the transactions would been panned as nothing burgers in real time, but they moved the team incrementally toward the goal. We have a lot of the offseason to go. I bet the team will look radically different from last year’s poop sandwich. And I bet they will be more watchable.

Matt Verplaetse

They’ll be more watchable in the sense that their games will probably be shorter – when you purposely assemble a team of guys that can’t hit, your turns at-bat tend to go by pretty quickly.

HallofFrank

I think either of you could be right, Hulk or Lamar. Are these steps in a good direction? It depends. We’ll see where they go from here. It’s not unthinkable that we’ll look back at 2024 as a bridge to respectability—or a frustrating continuation of the same.

StockroomSnail

That’s what I loathe about these white sox players, man. I get older, they stay at the same ceiling.