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Have the 2023 White Sox improved?

by Noah Phalen

After a disappointing 81-81 season in 2022, the Chicago White Sox have turned the page and set their sights on 2023. For the players, this means a fresh start, a chance for a do-over, and an opportunity to prove that they are more than their 2022 production. For Rick Hahn and the front office, it means figuring out the reason that things went wrong and doing everything they can to fix it.

For some fans, it means trading in the frustration and anger of a failed season and exchanging it for the hope and excitement of another chance. But for most fans, including myself, the mere prospect of a new season is not enough to make us forget the major letdown of a team advertised as a “World Series contender” falling short of even making the postseason. We want to see the frustration and disappointment erased by meaningful action. But with the recent news of Liam Hendriks’ battle with cancer and MLB’s investigation into Mike Clevinger, 2023 is already off to a tumultuous start.

Over the last 2+ months, the White Sox have made some additions but also have seen some subtractions. I will preface this by saying that it is still January, so there is still time for more additions, but with only a few short weeks remaining until Spring Training, it is time to ask: Did the White Sox do enough? Did the front office make the changes necessary to get the team back into contention?

Who Did They Lose?

1B Jose Abreu

One of the major questions during the season was Jose Abreu’s impending free agency and whether or not the White Sox would and should bring him back. This question was quickly answered, as Abreu didn’t wait long to sign a new three-year contract with the defending champion Houston Astros.

Abreu will be coming off his worst power season to date, and entering his age 36 season, there are definitely questions about whether the power will come back. But even with the decreased power numbers, Abreu was one of the more productive hitters in the lineup, leading the team in hits, average, and on-base percentage, and posting very respectable walk and hard hit rates (9.1% and 51.8% respectively). From 2019-2022, Abreu missed a total of only 18 games, leaving him as one of the sole durable players on a team with otherwise questionable health. He’s also well known as being a mentor and leader for several of the players in the White Sox clubhouse.

There is no question that Abreu’s presence in both the lineup and the locker room will be missed. Andrew Vaughn figures to take over as the regular first-baseman after Abreu’s departure.

RHP Johnny Cueto

The White Sox signed Johnny Cueto in March of 2022 as an emergency after Lance Lynn hurt his knee in spring training. It turned out to be the best move of their off-season, as Cueto produced 3.5 WAR over 158.1 innings. Cueto was instrumental in keeping their season afloat, given the injury to Michael Kopech and the rough season for Lucas Giolito. However, at 36 years old and with some potential warning signs of regression down the stretch, the White Sox made the decision to let Cueto walk, and he inked a one-year deal with the Miami Marlins earlier in January.

The White Sox are hoping a bounce back from Giolito and a fully healthy season from Lynn and Kopech can make up for Cueto’s departure.

OF AJ Pollock and IF Josh Harrison

While neither AJ Pollock nor Josh Harrison had particularly great seasons in 2022, the White Sox will presumably replace their veteran presences with youth. Oscar Colas is set to take over as the regular RF, and it figures to be a competition between Romy Gonzalez and Lenyn Sosa to take over for Harrison at 2B. Exchanging experience for youth is always a risky move, but both Colas and Sosa are coming off of breakout seasons in the minors, and have earned an extended look.

RHP Liam Hendriks

First things first, my thoughts and prayers are with Liam and his wife, Kristi, as they battle what is almost certainly the most challenging time of their lives. Liam’s health and recovery come before anything on the baseball field. As far as the White Sox go, they need to proceed as if they will not have Liam for the 2023 season. With a remaining back-end bullpen of Aaron Bummer, Joe Kelly, Kendall Graveman, and Reynaldo Lopez, the White Sox remain deep at reliever, and the bullpen should still be a strength for them in 2023. But Liam Hendriks has been a top-three closer in baseball in his two years in Chicago, and his loss cannot be understated.

INF Elvis Andrus

After being released by the Athletics late in 2022, the White Sox scooped up Andrus to fill in after Tim Anderson’s injury. To say they caught lightning in a bottle was an understatement. Andrus slashed .309/.464/.773 and clubbed 9 homers in just 43 games and was the sparkplug in the Sox order down the stretch, single-handedly keeping the offense rolling in September. Andrus expressed interest in coming back to Chicago, even if it required shifting over to 2B, a position he has never played in the majors. To this point, he remains unsigned.

An Andrus reunion could still be in the cards for the White Sox, however, it seems likely he will find a shortstop job elsewhere. Tim Anderson’s healthy return should easily make up for the production.

Who Did They Add?

New Manager and Coaching Staff

It cannot be overlooked how big of a change this is for the White Sox. Tony La Russa may be a hall-of-fame manager, but he was not fit to manage the White Sox in 2021 or 2022. Aside from his obvious in-game gaffes, his postgame comments left a lot to be desired, and his leadership in the clubhouse could definitely be questioned. From the moment Pedro Grifol was introduced as manager, it was obvious that things were going to be different. Grifol talked about his desire to implement analytics, as well as put a greater emphasis on game preparation. Grifol and the new coaching staff have their work cut out for them, but a more modern approach and better game prep are going to make a massive difference in the product on the field. The hiring of Sam Mondry-Cohen, the man credited with building the Nationals analytics department, as a major league analytics coordinator also signifies the club’s desire to transition to a modern approach.

OF Andrew Benintendi

The White Sox’ biggest addition of the off-season on the player side comes in the form of Benintendi, who signed a franchise-record $75 million contract earlier this month. Benintendi comes off an all-star season in 2022, despite hitting just five home runs. Both he and manager Pedro Grifol expressed the belief that some power will come back making the transition to a more hitter-friendly ballpark.

Benintendi brings a reliable left-handed bat and gold glove-caliber defense in left field. Arguably more important than this is the transitioning of Eloy Jimenez into the DH role. Jimenez has always been an impact bat in the Sox lineup when healthy, but his defensive deficits have been costly. While Jimenez may say that he is preparing to play RF, the current roster construction seems to indicate that his primary role will be as the DH. Benintendi’s addition and Abreu’s departure have allowed the White Sox to FINALLY move players back to their natural position, a change that was desperately needed.

RHP Mike Clevinger (Maybe?)

Earlier this week, the news broke that White Sox’ newly signed RHP Mike Clevinger is being investigated by MLB for allegations of domestic violence and child abuse. The investigation has supposedly been ongoing since last summer, and the White Sox were not aware of this investigation when they signed Clevinger. Aside from the obvious moral dilemma of keeping Clevinger on the team, he could be facing a lengthy suspension if the allegations are found to be true. I’m really only putting Clevinger under the “additions” category because as of now, he is technically still on the White Sox active roster. Anything can happen, but I’d be surprised if Clevinger starts a single game for the White Sox in 2023.

With Clevinger likely out, Davis Martin would figure to slot into the White Sox rotation. However, Rick Hahn could still step up and offset the likely loss of Clevinger by signing one of the veteran options are still available.

Minor League Additions

Some minor-league additions include OF Jake Marisnick, OF Victor Reyes, IF Hanser Alberto, and pitchers Gregory Santos, Mike Morin, and Nick Avila. Marisnick and Rule 5 pick Nick Avila seem most likely to fill roles for the team in 2023, with Marisnick currently the leader at the fourth outfielder position.

So…Are They Truly Improved?

Overall, the 2023 White Sox look a bit different than the 2022 iteration of the team, and several players, such as Yasmani Grandal, Yoan Moncada, and Lucas Giolito will be looking to bounce back after a down season. But are these additions and internal improvements enough for this team to improve, despite significant losses?

Per FanGraphs, the White Sox had 14 players that accumulated at least 1.0 fWAR in 2022, and five of those players are no longer with the team. They have only added one player that surpassed this threshold (Benintendi). Obviously, they expect improvements internally and are hoping for better health, but the organization has once again put itself in a tough spot. A team labeled “the biggest disappointment in baseball” last season should’ve needed no other motivation to make large improvements. Yet, here we are, just a few weeks from Spring Training, and I can’t help but have questions about a few areas.

Second base, the outfield, and now starting pitcher, are positions of uncertainty. Multiple question marks in year four of a so-called “championship window” is not okay. Players and staff alike have talked about how 2022 was unacceptable and they expect better, but they haven’t shown enough action to prove they’re committed to backing it up. Sure, this team could very well be improved as is, but a lot would have to go right. Maybe they do get bouncebacks from all their key players, and maybe 2023 is the year that the “hope we stay healthy” approach finally works. But until proven otherwise, the White Sox are all bark and no bite. It is past time to back up the talk with action.

2023 is the year for the White Sox to put their money where their mouth is, and play like the “World Series contenders” we were told they were. If not, it may be time for some self-evaluation, and that starts at the top. There are no doubt areas that have been improved. They added a much-needed lefty bat and have provided the means for key players to move to more comfortable defensive positions. They added a new coaching staff with a new approach that will certainly make a large impact. But will it be enough to turn the team from pretenders to contenders? Only time will tell.

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Featured Image: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

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Red Barchetta

Clown show.

Senor Sock

You forgot Billy Hamilton.


Its an open question if they will be better and its also a good thing that they probably can’t be worse. But here’s a few thoughts on why they will better. Abreu, Pollock and Harrison didn’t hit until July last year and then it was too late. They’re all gone, replaced by Vaughn and hopefully Colas and Sosa. The three replacements will make the Sox better (much better) defensively so if the three are given a chance to play for the first three months and hit a total of 250 with 30 and 90, the Sox will be much better in the first half. The odds are that the Sox will not loose the heart of the offense (Anderson, Robert, Jimenez and Moncada) for 50% of the season like they did last year. The high paid newbie bullpen guys shouldn’t stink as bad as they did last year. And Larussa and his crazy decisions are gone. Does all this add up to 12 to 15 more wins?


Nicely analyzed. Cueto’s success was in pitching for a contract. Pollock was a long time finding his stride. Harrison lived in the upper 100’s before he too warmed. I was glad Abreu left the team. I prefer youth over ancient (La Russa) anytime. The younger like Colas and Sosa just might energize the older youth to play inspired.

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