Greenberg: White Sox GM Chris Getz and his team have a lot to prove in 2024
Chris Getz set the tone in running his first White Sox offseason at the GM meetings in early November.
“I don’t like our team,” the new Sox GM said three months ago in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Of course, no one remembers the second part of that quote because “I don’t like our team” is about as juicy a quote as you’ll get from a top sports executive in an era when GMs are afraid to tell you on the record that the sky is blue. (“On background, we are operating as if that is the case.”)
But this is what he said after it: “We have to make some adjustments to improve in 2024. … When I say I don’t like our team, we’ve got pieces that are talented and attractive and they can be part of a winning club, but obviously, we haven’t gone out there and performed. It’s not a well-rounded club right now. We have to find players to come in here and help get us in the right direction.”
The pithy part was resurrected Monday when Getz did a Zoom news conference before the team reports to camp in Arizona.
“That comment about not liking this team, that was certainly something that was deeper in regards to the players playing together as a team,” he said, “and anyone that’s been around sports certainly can connect with that.”
No need to apologize, Chris. No one liked the 2023 White Sox. Not the fans. Not the players. Not the broadcasters.
Jerry Reinsdorf doesn’t go around firing his top executives every season, does he?
On a mission from Jerry, Getz is here to remake the White Sox. Make your jokes about the ex-Royals influence and the influx of glove-first, hit-last players on the roster. I know I will. But it’s clear that Getz has, if not a plan, then a philosophy about team-building and it’s not just throwing together home run hitters and clubhouse misfits.
Can good intentions result in an enjoyable 2024 season on the South Side? (Don’t answer that.)
As the White Sox prepare to assemble at Camelback Ranch, the expectations have been downgraded considerably from recent years.
The Sox have devolved from World Series dreamers and division contenders. Now it’s about outpacing projections of 60-something victories. FanGraphs has them with a 0.7 percent chance to make the playoffs while Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections is going with a 0.3 playoff chance. And this is in the AL Central. The Twins took the division with 87 wins last year.
So while Getz has made a ton of changes to the roster, his defense-and-clubhouse-guy strategy sounds better as a theory.
The best analysis I’ve read about Getz’s offseason has come from Jim Margalus, who runs the Sox Machine Substack and podcast (now with 100 percent more James Fegan), who has half-joked that Getz, with his consistent additions of glove-first everyday players, doesn’t want to prolong the agony of watching Sox games in 2024.
Chris Getz remains determined to have 2024 White Sox games end as quickly as possible. https://t.co/PGsIk3sb2Y
— Jim Margalus (@SoxMachine) December 27, 2023
When asked about the new arrivals’ lack of offensive oomph, Getz answered by naming just about every player on the roster and giving some potent mid-February spin on what they could do in 2024.
For example, about his new middle infield pairing, he said: “Paul DeJong has been productive at the major-league level. Does he need to make adjustments in his offensive game? Absolutely. Nicky Lopez, he needs to do the same thing.”
Last year, DeJong played for three teams and compiled a 66 wRC+, per FanGraphs, which essentially means he was 34 percent worse than the average hitter. He hasn’t been an above-average league hitter since 2019. And, thus, for 2024, FanGraph’s ZiPS projection has him at 78. So, a modest improvement.
Lopez’s wRC+ was at 77 in 94 games for two teams last year and ZiPS has projected him at 70 this year.
The 2023 White Sox’s wRC+ was 83, the second-worst in baseball. They finished dead last in walk percentage (6.3 percent), 12th in strikeout rate (23.8 percent) and 29th in OPS (.675) and ground-ball percentage (45.9 percent). They were 20th in homers (171) and 29th in runs (641).
How much can one Dominic Fletcher help?
“You want everyone to be as well-rounded as possible to get their bat in the lineup,” Getz said. “But it shouldn’t come at the cost of our defense.”
It’s hard to imagine the Sox offense being much better on paper, unless, of course, a half-dozen guys suddenly improve in unison. If that happens, hitting coach Marcus Thames might deserve a MacArthur Genius Grant.
“Yeah, we’re going to have to create runs,” Getz said. “We’re putting a lot on Marcus Thames and our hitting coaches to get the most out of these guys. But most importantly, I think these players are ready to go. They know the adjustments they need to make. It’s going to be a battle out there. And we’re gonna push these guys and we’re going to do everything we can to score runs.”
Essentially, every player aside from Luis Robert has “something to prove,” according to Getz, which sounds like what the GM of every bad team says before the season begins.
It’s not just the players. Getz, of course, has to prove he’s a real GM. Manager Pedro Grifol has to prove he’s a big-league manager and not a punchline. Reinsdorf has to prove why he should get financial assistance to build a new ballpark in the South Loop.
It’s a real prove-it year for everyone at 35th and Shields. Some might call it a “put your money where your mouth is” kind of season, but the Sox are cutting costs these days.
Their estimated payroll is down from $181 million on Opening Day in 2023 to around $140 million (including old money) right now, which is 18th in baseball, according to Spotrac, and still tops in a division in which the Sox are projected to finish dead last.
Of the new players Getz has added this offseason, starting pitcher Erick Fedde is making the most money, $7.5 million, which is the sixth-highest salary on the team. The highest-paid player is Yoán Moncada at just under $25 million in the last year of his deal.
Moncada is the ultimate “player that has a lot to prove.”
“When healthy … he can be a very productive offensive player,” Getz said. Etc. and so on. We know Moncada is Exhibit A of why the Sox are in this predicament.
Moncada would’ve been traded this offseason if anyone wanted him. If he hits and stays healthy, he’ll likely finish the season on another team. So when Getz talks about him working hard and being in peak condition, it sounds more like marketing.
The same could be said for starting pitcher Dylan Cease, who is still the Sox ace until someone offers Getz a package of prospects that he deems acceptable. Cease is slated for the Opening Day start and while he’s more useful, on a macro level, as a means to acquire more talent, on a micro level, the team needs him to pitch just so it can get through the first few months of the season. They could also use Michael Kopech to finally show up and for Garrett Crochet to turn into a starter.
Defensive improvements or not, the Sox have so many questions about their pitching staff, they might want to check to see if James Shields ever changed his phone number. Bobby Jenks is managing a local independent team. Does he still have three outs left in his arm?
As the players prepare to report, there is no hoopla this year. The White Sox are going into spring training as a clear last-place team. The farm system depth has improved, thanks in part to last year’s sell-off and Getz’s offseason moves, but it looks like it’s going to be a couple of rough years for the big-league club.
Make no mistake, this is another rebuild, albeit without the attendant buzz. So with no hope to sell, the onus will be on the Sox to be competitive most nights. Good luck.
“The team does need to come together, they need to go out there and perform,” Getz said. “There’s no secret about that. But you know, that’s kind of the beauty of baseball, and there’s plenty of optimism going around with our club.”
For a guy who didn’t like his team in November, at least Getz is going into spring training thinking positively.
(Top photo: Matt Marton / USA Today)