COLUMN: The White Sox need to right the ship this offseason

Gonzales: Chicago needs to make room for new talent

The Chicago White Sox have finally moved on from the Tony La Russa era, but there is still much to do in the offseason to get the team back to their winning ways.

The White Sox hired former Kansas City Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol on Nov. 3. Grifol served as bench coach under former Royals manager Mike Matheny for the past three seasons. Grifol was also a member of the Royals organization during their 2015 World Series run, serving as the catching coach at the time, according to the MLB.

The managerial change is a huge step in the right direction for the White Sox. The team finished 81-81 in the 2022 season, a major disappointment for a team that was projected to dominate the American League Central division. Former manager Tony La Russa made questionable decisions all year to set the White Sox up to lose, such as intentionally walking batters in 1-2 counts, bringing in closers before the ninth inning and putting together terribly ordered batting lineups.

The White Sox pitching staff took a huge step back from the 2021 season. Starting pitcher Lucas Giolito finished the year with a 4.90 ERA after posting a 3.53 ERA in 2021. Lance Lynn was out for most of the year, but posted a 3.99 ERA after a 2.69 ERA year. Dylan Cease was the lone bright spot for the Sox defense, finishing fifth in the league in strikeouts and third in the league in ERA at 2.20, according to the MLB. Cease was on pace to win the Cy Young award until a late injury that sidelined him toward the end of the season.

The White Sox currently have approximately $15 million to spend before dipping into the luxury tax, according to Spotrac. Their current financial situation does not give them much room to sign any big-time free agents, but if they want to improve from the disaster from last year, they have to create space to add some new faces.

The biggest holes in the White Sox roster are right field, second base, starting pitcher and catcher. Right fielder AJ Pollock declined his $13 million player option with the White Sox, according to MLB Trade Rumors. Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets are the only viable options left in right field, but both players primarily play first base. The White Sox could sign another outfielder, possibly Joc Pederson of the San Francisco Giants or Brandon Nimmo of the New York Mets.

Second baseman Josh Harrison is currently under contract on a one-year deal with a club option for the 2023 season, according to the MLB. Harrison had a great year defensively in 2022, but was inconsistent at the plate all year, tallying a .256 batting average and a lowly .687 on-base plus slugging percentage. The White Sox could pursue another option at second base, ideally free agent Adam Frazier of the Seattle Mariners.

The White Sox need to bolster its starting pitching rotation. In order to do this, some current players have to be released or traded.

Utility man Leury Garcia had an atrocious past two seasons, recording .267 and .210 batting averages and 0.376 and .500 OPS, respectively. Garcia was signed to a questionable three-year, $16.5 million contract in 2021, according to MLB.

Third baseman Yoan Moncada also had an awful 2022 season, slashing a .212 batting average and .626 OPS. Moncada signed a five-year, $70 million contract that has not proved to be fruitful for the White Sox, according to the MLB. Moncada is set to earn $17 million in 2023.

If the White Sox can get rid of these two players (Garcia and Moncada), they will free up about $22.5 million in cap space. It won’t be enough to land huge names like Jacob deGrom or Justin Verlander, but it could land a solid piece that could develop into an all-star.

Free agent starting pitcher Taijuan Walker was recently bought out by the New York Mets, a player that could possibly be a great addition to the White Sox. Walker posted a 3.49 ERA, 132 strikeouts, and a 12-5 record as a starter. Walker is projected to demand $13 million per year in free agency, certainly a doable contract for the White Sox.

If owner Jerry Reinsdorf is willing to dip into the luxury tax, the White Sox can definitely become contenders again. Returning players such as left fielder Eloy Jimenez, center fielder Luis Robert and shortstop Tim Anderson will always be solid for the White Sox, but they need to be surrounded with more talent in order for the team to be successful.