All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel traded to Chicago White Sox

Craig Kimbrel
Jul 12, 2021; Denver, CO, USA; National League pitcher Craig Kimbrel of the Chicago Cubs throws a football during workouts before the 2021 MLB All Star Home Run Derby. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs are sending All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to the Chicago White Sox, finishing off a blockbuster deal before the MLB trade deadline and kicking off the start of a rebuild.

Chicago became a seller this summer after a surprising start through the first two months ended with a crash down the MLB standings. Once it became evident what direction this team was headed, the Cubs became obvious sellers with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez among the top trade candidates.

In a market of playoff contenders desperate for bullpen help, Kimbrel was easily the best arm available. In the midst of a rebound season, Chicago has now found a home for the eight-time All-Star selection.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Cubs are trading Kimbrel to the White Sox.

The White Sox signed Liam Hendriks to a three-year, $54 million contract this season and installed him as their closer. After posting a 2.58 ERA with a 41 percent strikeout rate this season, the White Sox are now pairing two of the most electric arms in MLB together.

  • Craig Kimbrel stats (2021): 0.49 ERA, 23 saves, 46.7% strikeout rate, .105 BAA, 0.71 WHIP in 36.2 innings

Chicago is flipping Kimbrel at the right time, moving him just a year after everything seemed to be going wrong for the 33-year-old hurler. After signing a three-year, $42 million contract with the Cubs early in the 2019 season, Kimbrel posted a 7.77 ERA and had a woeful 6.55 BB/9 across 22 innings from June 2019 to Aug. 1, 2020.

But the talented righty found his form in August last year and has been a dominant closer ever since. Across his last 50.2 innings pitched, Kimbrel has struck out 47.2 percent of batters faced, held them to a .121 batting average and has only allowed one home run over that span.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports the Cubs will receive Nick Madrigal and pitching prospect Cody Heuer. Madrigal, who underwent season-ending hamstring surgery in June, is one of the best, young players in the White Sox system.

Kimbrel is more than just a half-season rental. There’s a $16 million club option for the 2022 season, which ranks second behind Aroldis Chapman ($17.2 million) among MLB’s highest-paid closers.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the White Sox will split saves between Hendriks and Kimbrel. Already boasting one of the best rotations in baseball, Chicago now owns the best reliever duo.