GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Tim Anderson pushed the White Sox into national prominence during the organization’s latest rebuild era and the ensuing move into contention covering the past six seasons.
Anderson was the American League batting champ in 2019. He was a two-time All-Star and the AL’s starting shortstop in the ‘22 All-Star Game.
Anderson’s “stalk-off” home run into the right-field corn during the White Sox Field of Dreams victory over the Yankees in Dyersville, Iowa, in 2021 stood as one of the true high points during this period. His celebratory bat flips after big home runs led to national conversation and even an entertaining bat flip seminar with kids at the last SoxFest. He was unapologetically and unwaveringly true to himself.
But with the White Sox declining a $14 million club option for 2024 with a $1 million buyout, Anderson’s time in Chicago might be winding to a close. Anderson is coming off the roughest season of a stellar eight-year career, as the 30-year old slashed .245/.286/.296 with 18 doubles, one home run, 25 RBIs, 52 runs scored and 13 stolen bases in 123 games in ‘23.
“Chicago is always a place I’ll be thankful for,” Anderson said via text on Saturday afternoon.
The veteran never hid from these struggles, but also never craved a change of scenery from the White Sox. In a 14-minute interview with MLB.com one day before the end of the season, Anderson’s guess was a return to the White Sox since they didn’t trade him at the Deadline when six other veterans with limited contractual control were moved, even with his value at a low point.
Anderson also seemed ready for whichever direction chosen by the White Sox after having a sitdown with general manager Chris Getz.
“I’m looking for an opportunity,” Anderson told MLB.com on Sept. 30. “And just looking to continue to keep going on what I built.
“Definitely [a season] to learn from. It’s not like I haven’t been here before, in this position before. I [haven’t] always been what I’ve been the last three to four years. I’m going to have that same approach I took when I was going through those years of this. So just have that same approach going into the offseason.”
Through 10 games this past season, Anderson was hitting .318 with a .780 OPS and looked to be building off a solid showing for Team USA during the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He was injured on a botched rundown play at third base during a game at Target Field on April 10 and never regained his original form.
Making the move with Anderson leaves the White Sox with openings to address at shortstop, second base, right field, catcher (although Korey Lee is in place), three-fifths of their rotation and whatever bullpen additions are warranted. It’s a tough task put upon Getz for a team steadfastly avoiding the rebuild description and looking to retool for American League Central contention in 2024.
Colson Montgomery, the organization’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 17 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, will be the answer at shortstop, but it’s just a question of when. Montgomery spoke about his future this past weekend while playing for Glendale in the Arizona Fall League, not knowing at the time of the Anderson decision.
At age 21 -- he’ll be 22 by Opening Day -- the goal for the 6-foot-3 left-handed hitter frequently compared to Corey Seager is to break camp with the team.
“That is on my mind,” Montgomery said. “As a competitor and as a baseball player, you want to push yourself. Maybe it’s out of reach, but it’s never out of reach. I’m going to chase for it."
Montgomery was the 22nd pick overall in the 2021 MLB Draft. Anderson, 30, was selected 17th overall in ‘13. The two worked together during this year’s Spring Training, and Montgomery spoke of what he learned from Anderson as well as Anderson’s overriding desire to do whatever it took to win.
That focus included Anderson’s willingness to play second base, which he originally did during the World Baseball Classic, although his priority remained at shortstop. But the apparent end in Chicago for Anderson could mark the start for Montgomery. It was Getz who wanted all his pieces, including the young players, to come to camp with a focus of making the team.
“I’m confident I could have that spot, but you never know,” Montgomery said. “They have a plan for me, and I’m going to stick with that.”