White Sox manager Tony La Russa issued a statement today, saying that he will not return to his role for 2023. His contract runs for another year but he has been dealing with health issues that have kept him away from the team since late August. Reports emerged over the weekend that an announcement of this nature would be coming today.
“This February, I had a pacemaker installed and was cleared by my doctors to begin spring training as scheduled,” La Russa’s statement reads. “A periodic check of the device later identified a problem. During batting practice on August 30, I was informed of the issue, taken out of uniform and tested by doctors the next day.The solution was to update the pacemaker in Arizona and for me not to return as manager without medical clearance.”
La Russa goes on to outline a second, unspecified health issue that was diagnosed earlier in the year and that he intended to address in the coming offseason. “While I was inactive with the pacemaker, the second issue was analyzed. The result is that a corrective plan has been developed by my medical team and implementation has begun. I informed the White Sox of this second issue while I was out of uniform dealing with the pacemaker. At no time this season did either issue negatively affect my responsibilities as White Sox manager. However, it has become obvious that the length of the treatment and recovery process for this second health issue makes it impossible for me to be the White Sox manager in 2023. The timing of this announcement now enables the front office to include filling the manager position with their other off-season priorities.”
He then goes on to express his disappointment in his performance this year but makes clear he is not upset with the fans, even those who jeered him, as he understands their desire for the club to win. The White Sox are currently 79-80, eliminated from postseason contention after qualifying in the previous two seasons. In a press conference following the release of the statement, La Russa said he has not yet discussed a different role with the organization as his health is his focus right now, per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
General manager Rick Hahn also participated in the press conference, saying that discussions about the next manager have already begun, per Van Schouwen (Twitter links). As for what they will be looking for in their next skipper, Hahn says they would like someone with recent managerial experience and success. A pre-existing relationship with the organization is not a prerequisite, though acting manager Miguel Cairo will receive an interview.
The Sox will be competing with a handful of other clubs who will also be looking for new field bosses for 2023. The Marlins and Don Mattingly announced that he won’t be back for next year, while the Blue Jays, Phillies, Angels and Rangers have all fired their managers midseason here in 2022. Some of those clubs will potentially retain their interim managers, with the Blue Jays seeming like a candidate to do so.
Whoever the White Sox grab to helm the dugout next season, they will have a very similar roster as La Russa had this year. Much of the club’s core performers are still under club control next year, with the most notable exception being first baseman Jose Abreu. However, the last time Abreu was approaching free agency, he was re-signed to stick around Chicago and could perhaps do the same again.
Of course, the organization could always make changes to the roster through the offseason, though they may be hamstrung financially. The club set a franchise record last year with an Opening Day payroll of $129MM but then shattered that here in 2022 by going up to $193MM, according to numbers from Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Next year’s outlay is at $121MM so far, in the estimation of Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. However, that number doesn’t include raises for arbitration eligible players like Lucas Giolito or options for players like Tim Anderson, not to mention a potential new contract for Abreu. As such, Hahn tells Van Schouwen that the club is likely to be more active on the trade market than in free agency this winter.