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Chicago White Sox: 1 trade might not be working out all that well

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(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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I never thought that Craig Kimbrel was going to be worth the combination of Codi Heuer and Nick Madrigal but so far he’s been worse than expected. Despite being advertised an ace closer who’d make the Chicago White Sox bullpen the best in the MLB, Craig Kimbrel has pitched to a 5.82 ERA and -0.2 WAR in 17 innings.

It’s even worse than that as Kimbrel is just 1 for 4 in save opportunities, and has allowed runs that cost the White Sox 2 different games. He also prevented them from getting a sweep against Boston.

If the White Sox had won the two games lost by Kimbrel, they’d be in play for the number 2 seed in the American League but are instead the number 3 seed which will cost them home-field advantage against the Houston Astros.

For those who don’t think that’s a big deal, they should look at the White Sox home and away records. It’s obvious they play much better in Chicago, including against the Astros, where they actually won the series (while being swept on the road).

We all know that Craig Kimbrel can be a little bit better for the Chicago White Sox.

The point is that these games do indeed matter and Kimbrel has not been giving the White Sox what they paid for. Kimbrel hasn’t looked good at all and each appearance seems to be a struggle for him. The only way he seems to be able to get hitters out is when they swing at his pitches outside the strike zone. I don’t understand why hitters don’t just go up and try to get a walk against him given his horrible command of the strike zone.

Kimbrel’s struggles are also not unprecedented. He didn’t pitch well in the 2018 playoffs (with Chris Sale closing out the World Series instead of him) and he pitched badly for the Cubs in 2019 and half of  2020. He pitched really well for the Cubs in 2021 but that was in a small sample size of 36.7 innings and it was against the weaker National League.

Trading away a capable reliever and star second baseman with five years of control after 2021 based on 36 good innings always seemed like a head-scratcher but the deal is looking worse by the day. If Kimbrel can’t pitch any better than this, the White Sox should decline his 2022 option and use the money instead on getting a replacement second baseman and resigning Carlos Rodon.

Fortunately, there’s still time to turn things around and maybe the Sox will find a way to get past Houston in the playoffs so that Kimbrel can help them at least win the AL pennant. While that doesn’t seem likely, it’s the only way he’ll ever be worth Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer, who has settled in nicely for the Cubs with a 1.23 ERA and 1.0 WAR for them in 22 innings pitched.

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