The Chicago White Sox bullpen woes may be over. After trading for Ryan Tepera on Thursday the White Sox struck another deal with their crosstown rivals, this time for Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is one of the game’s best closers. He was dealt amid a garage sale on the Northside of Chicago.
Kimbrel joins a long line of names who have been traded in the Cubs fire sale including Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant Javier Baez, Andrew Chafin, and Ryan Tepera. Kimbrel now gives the White Sox a second All-Star reliever on the back end of their bullpen. The team now boast one of the most lethal bullpens in baseball
It did not come without a cost, however. In return, the Cubs received Codi Heuer and former first-round pick Nick Madrigal. This is Heuer’s second season in the big leagues. He showed promise in 2020 posting a 1.52 ERA and holding opponents to a .145 batting average. But Heuer is having a rough 2021 season. The 25-year-old right-hander’s ERA ballooned up to 5.12. His failure to repeat his 2020 success is one of the reason’s the White Sox were forced to find outside bullpen help.
The real prize of the deal was Nick Madrigal. Madrigal was projected to be the White Sox second baseman of the future. The former first-round pick was hitting .305 before going down with a season-ending injury. He has an elite bat on balls skills and his low strikeout rate is a testament to that. If he can stay healthy the Cubs now have a middle infielder they can rely on for years to come. Losing him is a big blow to the White Sox.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 30, 2021
While the White Sox had to give up a big piece of their future, they made a huge splash by adding Kimbrel. Kimbrel’s contract contains a club option for 2022 so the White Sox will have his services for a season and a half. He figures to slot right alongside Liam Hendriks to form the best 1-2 bunch in baseball. Hendriks was named the best reliever in the MLB by MLB Network during the offseason. He also won Reliever of the Month in May and was named an American League All-Star.
Kimbrel was an All-Star for the National League this year and has revitalized his career in Chicago. When the Cubs first acquired him he struggled. His tenure started with a 6.00 ERA in his first two seasons. He even lost his closer job for a brief time. But then he bounced back to his elite form. In 2021 he posted a 0.49 ERA in 39 appearances.
The eight-time All-Star has 23 saves this season, which is tied for the fourth-most in the MLB. His new teammate Liam Hendriks ranks second with 25 saves. It will be interesting to see who Tony La Russa uses in the ninth inning. The White Sox invested a ton of money into Hendriks and he has been a stable force in the ninth inning for them this season. However, Kimbrel’s ERA is much lower and he closed out games in the World Series before. It may be a combined effort with each man splitting ninth inning responsibilities.
Either way, Rick Hahn has now turned the White Sox biggest weakness into a strength post-deadline. The White Sox were already World Series contenders despite a struggling bullpen. They now added Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel to join forces with Garrett Crochet, Micheal Kopech, and Hendriks. Kopech has been virtually unhittable this season while Crochet has served as a hard-throwing lefty option who has been effective. With the White Sox starting pitching it is going to be very difficult to score runs on this unit come playoff time.
They also have middle-of-the-order hitters returning such as Eloy Jimenez, Yasmani Grandal, and Luis Robert. While losing Madrigal hurts, Rick Hahn is signaling that it is World Series or bust this season by going full throttle at the deadline.