Chicago White Sox general manager Chris Getz stared back at a few dozen reporters on a Zoom call Friday afternoon after informing them top prospect Colson Montgomery doesn’t have to worry about making the team out of spring training.
No one had any more questions and no one was stopping the Zoom.
Getz wasn’t sure exactly what to do.
“Are we at the point where we just do a staredown?” Getz asked reporters.
I was prepared to take over as emergency moderator, but the White Sox media relations man got back on the screen after his Wi-Fi returned, saving the day.
It’s been that kind of a year for the White Sox, who never found a low point that couldn’t get even lower.
The recent exodus by broadcaster Jason Benetti to the Detroit Tigers booth was just the latest blow, coming off a season so horrible Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf admitted he wouldn’t watch the games on his DVR if the Sox lost. The team lost 101 games, so he missed some of Benetti’s finest moments.
Getz, the first-year general manager who replaced longtime Twitter piñata Rick Hahn, has been charged with the responsibility of changing the narrative on the Sox after “BenExit.” He’s already proven to be adept on the dismantling part, sending left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer to the Atlanta Braves for five players, including a possible replacement for shortstop Tim Anderson in Nicky Lopez.
Next up? Maybe Eloy Jiménez, who was deemed in good shape by Getz after the Sox visited the outfielder in the Dominican Republic.
“He looks motivated and determined,” Getz said. “He needs to maintain that. But Eloy’s potential with his bat, it’s just been lack of consistency mainly because of missed time. Teams are interested. It certainly just has to make sense on both sides.”
Getz said Friday the addition of Lopez, who can also play second base, won’t have any residual effect on Montgomery’s future.
Colson is a special talent, he is,” Getz said. “He’ll certainly let us know he’s ready.”
That suggests Colson hasn’t yet told the Sox he’s ready, or maybe he’s too shy.
Rest assured Montgomery is the face-of-the-franchise-in-waiting and Anderson’s exit left a roster spot for him. When Montgomery gets that chance was going to be a spring-training question that could’ve carried the news cycle during many Cactus League snoozers.
Sox manager Pedro Grifol went a little overboard last September when he insisted everyone invited to spring training would get a chance to make the team. This obviously included Montgomery, the team’s only “name” prospect. Getz was asked about him at the recent general managers meetings.
“I don’t want to have the expectation for Colson to think he’s going to be our opening day shortstop,” Getz said earlier this month. “But I don’t want to cap anything for him either because it’s important for him to stay motivated and be ready to go in spring training because he knows how 2024 unravels for him.”
On Friday, Getz fed the possibility by raving about Montgomery’s “impressive” play in the Arizona Fall League.
“What he did in the box, the decisions he makes, the temperament, the (being) under control, the operation that he has, really stands out,” he said. “And then defensively he was a solid defender at shortstop. So he was certainly was one of the players talked about, (and third baseman) Bryan Ramos was as well.
“To have those guys on the left side of the infield there in Glendale was fun to watch, and (we) look forward to 2024. We do feel like both those guys are not only taking off, but ready to take off even further.”
So there was no talk of Montgomery making the Sox out of camp?
“No, the guys haven’t even talked of that,” he said.
So much for that story. Back to the Sox rebuild, already in progress.
“Project: Kansas City,” the unofficial name given Getz’s royal plan by social media wise guys, at least has some legs. Lopez spent most of his career with the Royals, the organization Getz and Grifol have a not-so-secret crush for. Unlike Anderson, Lopez can catch and throw accurately on a daily basis, which means he’s already an upgrade.
Getz successfully shed Bummer’s $5.5 million salary and waved goodbye to a left-hander whose five-year, $16 million deal in February 2020 turned out to be a failed, long-term gamble by Hahn based on early career projections.
The Bummer deal also continued the emptying out of the 2023 bullpen that included Joe Kelly, Kendall Graveman, Reynaldo López, Keynan Middleton, Jake Diekman and two guest appearances by infielder Hanser Alberto.
It will not be remembered fondly.
Alberto’s 21.60 ERA was not even the worst on the team. That honor went to actual reliever José Ruiz, who posted a 22.09 ERA in four outings. That’s so Sox.
After Liam Hendriks’ option was declined, Getz might avoid handing out those large, multiyear deals to relievers, a Hahn trademark. Paying that kind of money on the bullpen was always a dicey proposition for the Sox, who’ve had difficulties drafting, signing or acquiring relievers for decades.
Garrett Crochet’s health is imperative in 2024 after missing the 2022 season following left elbow reconstruction surgery and dealing with shoulder issues for most of 2023. He’s ready to be their Hendriks on the field and in the clubhouse, but whether he’ll be a starter or reliever is anyone’s guess, assuming he’s healthy.
“Coming into spring training, there is going to be an innings progression for him, and we’ll make a decision at some point whether we continue to extend those innings and build him up or if there’s a greater need in a different role for the White Sox,” Getz said. “Obviously I want him to be a multi-inning pitcher — if that means that it’s going to work toward a starter, so be it.”
It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Sox, and Getz has his hands on the wheel with both eyes on the road.
Let the staredown begin.