While the Chicago White Sox had one problem removed from their list of issues to address going into next season, there is still much that plagues the team as it tries to correct itself from being the most disappointing team in baseball this year.
Manager Tony La Russa’s decision to retire due to health issues leaves the White Sox in need of a replacement who can get the club to realize its potential and be a World Series title contender.
Under La Russa (whom many believed was the wrong man for the job when he was hired two years ago), the team failed to take the next step after winning the American League Central Division during the 2021 campaign.
Gaining the trust of the fan base back will be difficult if the team does not make major improvements in the off-season, especially in the areas of manager and roster construction.
General manager Rick Hahn made it known that changes will be forthcoming and not just in the manager’s role.
"“We need to get better at multiple facets. There needs to be…obviously manager/staff changes and personnel changes,” Hahn said. “My only point is, and it’s easy at the end of a disappointing season to say you have to burn it to the ground. I think that’s not where we’re at as an organization.”"
While it is important for the organization to get it right in the managerial department, the real issue may come in what changes to the roster will be made.
The Chicago White Sox has a lot of work to do in order to address the problems.
Perhaps the toughest question to answer is which team is the real White Sox, the 93-win version of 2021 or the club that hovered around the .500 mark for most of this season?
Hahn said blowing up the team and starting over isn’t an option, thus indicating the front office’s belief the roster has enough talent to be more like the division champs than division runners-up.
The problem, however, is how capable is the front office to make the necessary moves to strengthen areas of weakness.
Going into this season, the team was in desperate need of a second baseman, right fielder, and starting pitcher. Hahn’s response was the signing of 34-year-old Josh Harrison to pair with shortstop Tim Anderson.
The ballclub used a merry-go-round of players to play the corner outfield positions and that was more a recipe for disaster than it was for success. The hope that Michael Kopech could fill the void in the rotation left by the departure of Carlos Rodon proved to not turn out as well as hoped.
Not finding quality, everyday positional players to address those glaring weaknesses was something that came back to haunt the White Sox and left them still in need of filling those holes come next year.
The addition of Elvis Andrus turned into a pleasant surprise and while he said he is open to returning to the White Sox and willing to move over to second base, he has never played the position before.
Fixing the roster will be job number one but at what cost will the team be willing to make changes? The White Sox were seventh overall in team payroll and have tied themselves to Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson, and Yoan Moncada to long-term deals they haven’t lived up to.
While there is a possibility each could come back and perform to expectations, it is also possible one of them could be moved in a deal.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal’s four-year, $73 million deal signed back in 2019 has not proven to be a good one as Grandal has been underwhelming behind the plate and at bat. Addressing the catching position should be another item on the “to-do” list.
Jose Abreu has supplemented his ability with great availability, appearing in over 150 games in six of his nine seasons, including playing all 60 games in the COVID-shorted 2020 season.
He has been the face of the White Sox and the team has a decision to make as to whether or not to re-sign the 35-year-old whose power numbers went down despite still recording over 180 hits and batting above .300.
Is Lucas Giolito able to get back to his 2021 form? What do you do with Gavin Sheets and Andrew Vaughn? Will Garrett Croche be healthy enough to help the pitching? What will be done to help keep the team healthy and avoid succumbing to injury as it has?
Every team will have issues to deal with during the offseason. However, the White Sox’s failure to meet the lofty expectations placed on them this season makes them one of the more intriguing teams to keep an eye on to see how they correct their problems.