What is the plan for the Chicago White Sox heading into 2024?
If it is to be the American League Central version of the Oakland A's, they may be on to something.
For a team that lost 101 games last season, one would think the only way to go would be up, and things could work out that way because baseball is a funny game. However, projections-early as they are-do not seem to be trending that way for the White Sox under new general manager Chris Getz.
In summing up how things have gone since the end of the 2023 debacle, Getz had the following to say, according to the Chicago Sun Times:
"I wouldn't say that we feel like we're knocking on the door of something. But, it's more getting a better idea of where we stand, whether it be acquiring a guy through free agency or trade. I will say we're very organized. We've done a nice job this offseason with setting out a plan and feel really good with where we're at so far. We want to continue to capture the momentum."
Getz added, "I've said it before, we're fortunate to be in the AL Central."
That last comment couldn't be truer and damning at the same time.
What does it say about an organization that isn't one of the top teams year in and year out in the weakest division in baseball? Why are smaller market teams such as the Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins seemingly always battling it out to take the division crown? What do each of those teams do in areas of player acquisition and development that the White Sox can't seem to grasp?
What exactly the "momentum" they are capturing is can be subject for questioning. As of right now, the team has neither signed nor been linked to any rumors of signing any noteworthy free agents or making trades that could impress the fan base and bolster the outlook for the team.
This is not to say Getz has done nothing this offseason. He has been making moves, yet one should be careful to not mistake activity for productivity.
Pitching is certainly a priority for this team, which has only Dylan Cease for now, and Michael Kopech as primary returning starters from last season's rotation. Getz has added volume in the number of pitchers he has brought into the fold, yet none really stand out as striking fear in the eyes of opposing hitters.
Defensively, Getz should get some credit for addressing defense, especially up the middle of the infield by bringing in the likes of shortstop Paul DeJong and second baseman Nicky Lopez. Getz also struck deals for catchers Max Stassi and Martin Maldonado, both of whom will be tasked to work with a young pitching staff while serving as mentors to Korey Lee behind the plate.
The terms "rebuild" and "retool" have been thrown around in trying to describe what Getz is doing with the roster. To suggest a rebuild would mean tearing everything down and starting from scratch which the White Sox have not done. To retool means to make changes to adapt to where the game is going today which one could make a case the White Sox are trying to do.
Whatever one wants to call it, the reality of the team not being in the mix for a division title or a wild card is very real. Fangraphs did a projection of teams' winning percentages this coming season and have the White Sox 29th at .416, just ahead of the Colorado Rockies in 30th at .380.
Projections are an educated guessing game using metrics compiled from various data points of the players currently on the roster. It is not a perfect science, yet it could prove true for the White Sox who have not shown over the past two years to be making strides to get back to being the team they were in 2021 when they won the division and 93 games.
Many teams have not done much to alter their rosters as they wait to see price points for free agents and how that market shakes out. Aside from the Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto deals with the Los Angeles Dodgers, names like Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, Cody Bellinger, and Matt Chapman still are out there for the taking.
Chances are the White Sox will not go after one of those types of players, but it would be nice to see them in the mix every once and a while for players like that.
Following the end of the '23 season, White Sox director of player personnel Gene Watson described how the team would approach moving forward by saying, "We want to win and we are not going to put a timetable on it."
Based on what they have and have not done so far, the White Sox winning might just take a while.
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