GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Conversations concerning the immediate White Sox future have gravitated toward words such as “winning culture” and “dynamic talent.”
Dynamic talent, you ask? It’s a particular style of play, as assistant general manager Josh Barfield explained during our recent conversation.
“It’s having multiple ways to beat you in a baseball game,” Barfield told me. “I don’t think we are going to be able to go out there and outslug teams on a regular basis. We have guys on a given night, yeah, they can do that.
“But over the long haul, over 162, I don’t know that’s going to be the winning formula. We are going to have guys who can win games defensively, guys who are winning games on the bases. Situational hitting, bunting a guy over, getting a guy in from third, being able to do the little things. We are going to have to be able to execute on a high level on those things for us to turn this around.”
Here are Hot Stove questions and dates providing a road map for this process.
Which players are free agents?
RHP Bryan Shaw, INF Elvis Andrus, C Yasmani Grandal and RHP José Ureña
Are any of them likely to receive qualifying offers?
Will any of these free agents return to the White Sox?
From Aug. 18 through the end of the season, Shaw posted a 3.10 ERA over 25 games. He pitched in 18 games during the season’s final month, and unless his thought process has changed, Shaw is nine career appearances shy of 800 in his career and wants to keep pitching. He would be a solid bullpen asset on and off the field.
Andrus is a possibility, but his return depends on how the front office views its infield configuration.
Which players have options?
Shortstop Tim Anderson has the option that's most talked about, with the club holding at $14 million for 2024 alongside a $1 million buyout. Shortstop Colson Montgomery, the team’s No. 1 prospect and No. 17 overall, per MLB Pipeline, is moving toward the Majors, but Anderson also expressed a willingness to play second base in my interview with him one day before the end of the ’23 season. Anderson had an uncharacteristically tough ’23, and he didn’t try to hide from the struggles. But it’s a solid bet he’ll bounce back.
Chicago has a $15 million option on closer Liam Hendriks with a $15 million buyout to be paid in 10 annual installments of $1.5 million from 2024-33. Hendriks is one of the best closers in the game, a charitable force with his wife, Kristi, away from the field and another individual who can enhance that sought-after culture. He’s also working back from Tommy John surgery and wouldn’t pitch until near the end of the ’24 campaign at the earliest.
A $12 million mutual option exists for RHP Mike Clevinger and the White Sox. There’s also a $4 million buyout on one of the team’s most consistent starters in ’23. The White Sox have five days from the end of the World Series to make these decisions.
Who might be a non-tender candidate?
Right-handed pitchers Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech are arbitration-eligible, and barring a trade, they will be two of the top hurlers in Chicago's rotation. Left-handed hurler Garrett Crochet and first baseman Andrew Vaughn also are arbitration-eligible and figure into the team’s ’24 plans and beyond.
Outfielders Clint Frazier and Trayce Thompson are non-tender candidates and arbitration-eligible, as is reliever Matt Foster. The White Sox like the raw stuff of Touki Toussaint, who is arbitration-eligible and a possibility for the back end of the rotation. Chicago has until Nov. 17 to make these calls.
Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 Draft?
Cristian Mena, the 20-year-old right-hander and No. 10 White Sox prospect, should help the White Sox sooner than later in ’24, so he’ll be added. The same seems true for left-hander Jake Eder (No. 5 White Sox prospect), right-hander Matthew Thompson (No. 22) and possibly outfielder Wilfred Veras (No. 21) and right-hander Juan Carela. Chicago has until 5 p.m. CT on Nov. 14 to add these players to the 40-man, where it has plenty of room to maneuver.
What kind of help do the White Sox need, and will they be active in free agency?
Pitching, pitching and more pitching. They will explore free agency to assist a currently open-looking rotation as well as their bullpen but might not explore in the big-ticket end. We'll learn more details when general manager Chris Getz talks this week at the GM Meetings in Scottsdale.
They need more than pitching. What about catcher? Right field? Second base?
Korey Lee is in place behind the plate, but All-Star catcher Salvador Perez already has been thrown around as a trade candidate with his strong Kansas City bond to Getz and especially manager Pedro Grifol. Oscar Colas and Lenyn Sosa struggled in right and at second, respectively, as rookies in ‘23, so the White Sox will go more veteran in at least one if not both those areas.
Who might they be willing to trade?
Getz has made it clear absolutely nobody is untouchable, although center fielder Luis Robert Jr. would be pretty close. Chicago would have to disrupt its core to retool this team.
Which contributor for the 2005 White Sox World Series champions never went on to manage?
A. Tadahito Iguchi
B. A.J. Pierzynski
C. Bobby Jenks
D. Paul Konerko
• Texas manager Bruce Bochy turned out to be the biggest free-agent acquisition of this past offseason.
• Marcus Semien and Dane Dunning are World Series champions. Couldn’t happen to higher quality individuals.
• I’ll be in Arizona for the next week for Arizona Fall League and GM Meetings coverage. So, stay tuned.
Iguchi and Takatsu managed in Japan, although Iguchi has moved on to the media side. He was at White Sox camp this past March and was in Texas for the World Series. Jenks is the new manager of the Frontier League’s Windy City Thunderbolts near Chicago, so Konerko is the outlier, unless you count work with his son’s baseball teams.
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