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White Sox Acquire Craig Kimbrel

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Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer head to the North Side

Arizona Diamondbacks v Chicago Cubs
On the move: Star closer Craig Kimbrel is heading to the South Side in a key deadline deal.
Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Rick Hahn strikes again. While yesterday’s acquisitions of César Hernández and Ryan Tepera boosted the roster, today’s trade should make an even larger impact.

Craig Kimbrel, an eight-time All-Star relief pitcher with an otherworldly ERA of 0.49, is headed to the White Sox. Kimbrel, who turned 33 in May, is having an incredible season. In addition to his insane ERA, Kimbrel has a 1.92 xERA, 1.08 FIP, and 1.9 fWAR/2.4 bWAR this season. Opposing hitters have a slash line of .106/.190/.146.

“We viewed Craig as the premier relief pitcher available at this trade deadline, and so we knew the cost would be steep in terms of parting with young talent,” says Rick Hahn, White Sox senior vice president/general manager. “But we recognize the special opportunity that currently exists, and our team, our clubhouse and our fans deserve to know we will do everything we can to reach the postseason and win meaningful games in October.”

This is Kimbrel’s 12th season in the majors, and his Hall of Fame case is getting mighty strong. Kimbrel has a career 2.07 ERA and a career 2.17 FIP to go along with 19.2 fWAR/21.7 bWAR.

Kimbrel, who is making $16 million this year, is under team control through the end of 2022, as there is a team option in his contract. The White Sox can either pick up the option and pay him $16 million for 2022, or buy their way out of the contract for $1 million. With the way Kimbrel has performed, though, the decision to keep him for 2022 should be an easy one to make.

Kimbrel will join a bullpen that is looking very powerful, with Liam Hendriks, Ryan Tepera (acquired from the Cubs, just yesterday), Michael Kopech, and Garrett Crochet. That is a bullpen that throws a ton of heat. Come playoff time, it will be very helpful to have these weapons. Many props to Hahn for making this trade happen.

Heading to the North Side will be second baseman Nick Madrigal and reliever Codi Heuer. Madrigal, 24, was the White Sox’s first round draft pick (fourth overall) in 2018. He is an excellent contact hitter, slashing .305/.349/.425 in 54 games before his season was cut short due to injury. Madrigal has accumulated 1.5 career fWAR in 83 MLB games, all with the White Sox. His fielding has yet to live up to the high expectations that were set for him when he was in the farm system (where he won a MiLB Gold Glove). However, Madrigal’s baserunning improved drastically between 2020 and 2021. Best of luck to Madrigal on the Cubs.

Heuer, a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher, has not quite found his footing at the MLB level. After a strong 2020 debut, Heuer has a 5.12 ERA in 2021, though his xERA (4.43) and FIP (3.67) are more encouraging. Heuer’s ground ball rate decreased from 50% in 2020 to 43% in 2021, which explains part of the reason why this season is not going as well for him. Best of luck to Heuer on the North Side.

Despite how it looked just two days ago, the White Sox are going for it. It has been an enjoyable season for the White Sox, who have an eight-game lead in the AL Central. With this trade, things got even more interesting. The White Sox have set themselves up for an exciting finish. It will be a pleasure to cheer them on as the season winds down.

Or, as Rick Hahn said on Zoom today, “We made a conscious decision to prioritize today.”

South Side Sox will have a trade deadline podcast up tonight to discuss the flurry that ended baseball’s trading season, including the AL Central further decimating itself for 2021.