The Chicago White Sox have yet to find a trade partner for Craig Kimbrel. He didn’t do his trade value any favors with his spring training debut on Wednesday.
In Kimbrel’s first outing of the Spring, he got tagged for five runs, four of them earned in just 0.2 innings pitched. He was also charged with a blown save despite entering the game in the fourth inning, returning to his late-season form from the previous season.
Not too much stock should be put into spring training results. Often times players are trying to work on something so outcomes should be taken with a grain of salt. However, Kimbrel’s poor performance raises some eyebrows. His struggles in a White Sox uniform are well documented.
Kimbrel was having an All-Star season before being shipped to the South Side for a trade package of Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer. Kimbrel was virtually untouchable with the Chicago Cubs posting a 0.49 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP.
The Chicago White Sox didn’t see Craig Kimbrel have a great start this spring.
He also racked up 23 saves and was holding opponents to a .106 batting average. The thought of him and Liam Hendriks in the back end of the bullpen was tantalizing. Then reality struck.
Things quickly fell apart once Kimbrel arrived in the White Sox bullpen. He could never get comfortable in his new role as a setup man. Kimbrel got shelled to the tune of a 5.09 ERA and allowed 31 base runners in 23 innings. When Tony La Russa did give him save opportunities, he converted only one of his four chances.
Things did not get much better in the postseason. He allowed a home run and two earned runs in Game 2 of the ALDS. He finished the series with a 9.00 ERA. Despite the struggles, Kimbrel is still a top-tier reliever.
The White Sox could decide to hang onto him and correct the situation but this is unlikely given that the White Sox owns the most expensive bullpen in baseball and just signed Kendall Graveman to be their new setup man.
Rick Hahn opted to pick up Kimbrel’s $16 million club option during the offseason with the hopes of swinging a trade so he could get some assets in return. However, since reports that Kimbrel was on the trading block were leaked his market has dried up.
Allowing six base runners (with four coming from walks) does not help the cause. Kimbrel has nearly 400 career saves and over 1,000 strikeouts. Relievers of his pedigree are seldom available. Questions, however, need to be answered.
There is certainly a case to keep Craig Kimbrel. He is a Hall of Fame talent and if he can find his footing once again the White Sox will have a lethal bullpen. Kimbrel’s bad start to the 2022 season isn’t easing any concerns.