White Sox Strengthen Bullpen In Deal For Craig Kimbrel From Cubs
While the four teams battling in the American League East all have made trade deadline deals to try to solidify their spots in the playoffs, the White Sox didn’t let a comfortable American League Central lead distract them from a massive acquisition of their own.
The White Sox swung a trade for one of the best relievers in baseball. Without much high-impact prospect talent in the farm system, the White Sox instead used their MLB roster, swapping second baseman Nick Madrigal (out for the season with a hamstring injury) and righthanded reliever Codi Heuer.
WHITE SOX ACQUIRE
Craig Kimbrel, RHP
The White Sox have already effectively wrapped up the AL Central crown—they entered July 30 eight games up on Cleveland, which has traded away big leaguers in the lead-up to the trade deadline. Acquiring Kimbrel is not about securing a playoff spot, it’s about ensuring they have a bullpen that can take them deep through the playoffs. Tony La Russa now has a bullpen that compares favorably with his best A’s pens of the late 1980s. Kimbrel joins Liam Hendriks to give the White Sox two of the best closers in baseball. Kimbrel’s acquisition also means that the club will be able to deploy Garrett Crochet and Michael Kopech to shorten games. Chicago now enters August with the most enviable collection of bullpen talent in the game.
Kimbrel is in the middle of one of the best seasons of his outstanding MLB career. He’s as unhittable as ever, thanks to his 96-98 mph fastball and 84-87 mph curve. But he’s also posting one of the best walk rates of his career (3.2 BB/9). That combination has meant he rarely has traffic on the basepaths and when he does his strikeout ability (15.7 K/9) means he can keep following hitters from putting the ball in play to move those runners along. He’s also allowed only one home run all season.
Kimbrel makes $16 million this year and has a $16 million team option for 2022.
Trade Acquisition Nick Madrigal Excites The Cubs
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer was envious of the White Sox when they drafted Madrigal No. 4 overall in 2018.
Nick Madrigal, 2B
From the day he made his MLB debut, Madrigal has been one of the best pure hitters in the majors. He carries a .317 career major league batting average thanks to exceptional bat control. Madrigal rarely swings and misses (7.1% strikeout rate in 2021). That bat-to-ball skill also means he rarely walks, as there are few at-bats that go by without a ball the aggressive Madrigal can put into play. He lacks power, but provides offensive value thanks to his high batting averages and speed on the bases. Defensively, he’s been a little less than expected at second base so far, but evaluators expect him to become an above-average defender at second at least. He has also had injury issues in his brief MLB career. He’s sidelined until 2022 thanks to a hamstring tear. Last year he suffered a shoulder injury that ended his season early.
Codi Heuer, RHP
Heuer was one of the breakout prospects in the 2020 White Sox bullpen. The team’s sixth-rounder out of Wichita State from the 2018 draft, he reached the major leagues without a day in Triple-A. At his best, Heuer can be an excellent setup man. He uses three pitches primarily—an upper-90s fastball and a slider and changeup which each average exactly 87.4 mph. His slider and changeup have each induced whiff rates of better than 42% this season. Heuer has graduated from prospect eligibility but ranked as the team’s No. 11 prospect entering the year. His slider took a huge leap forward after the White Sox identified a flaw in the way he was delivering the pitch. Once the problem was found, Heuer changed his hand position and release point, which helped the slider blossom into its current, excellent iteration.