Closing the deal: White Sox land Kimbrel in trade with Cubs
The tables have turned in Chicago baseball, this time in the White Sox's favor.
That wasn't the case four years ago, when the Sox were tearing it down and building for the future.
In desperate need of impactful young talent, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn pried Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease away from the Cubs in a trade for Jose Quintana.
It was the right deal for both sides of town at the time, and now there's a new one to analyze.
A day after acquiring relief pitcher Ryan Tepera, Hahn hooked up with Cubs counterpart Jed Hoyer again on Friday in a much bigger trade.
Craig Kimbrel is joining the Sox's bullpen, and he'll team up with Liam Hendriks on the back end. Both right-handers pitched in this year's All-Star Game.
"Obviously, the resume speaks for itself," Hahn said. "As I discussed with Craig, a few weeks ago (White Sox VP) Kenny (Williams) and I asked each other, of all the players expected to be moved, let's assume we could only acquire one, who would it be? And he and I had the same answer and that was the player we acquired today."
The Cubs paid a hefty price to get Quintana in July of 2017, and the Sox had to move injured second baseman Nick Madrigal -- the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 draft -- and relief pitcher Codi Heuer to get Kimbrel.
"Parting with Nick Madrigal is not easy. Parting with Codi Heuer is not easy." Hahn said. "Jed will tell you how much we fought on that. In the end, those were both key pieces from the Cubs' perspective in order to get the deal done. And we understood going into this process that the only way we were going to secure (Kimbrel) was having the clear best offer. In the end, that was the cost."
The payoff could be enormous for the White Sox.
For as good as Hendriks (4-2, 2.58 ERA, 25 saves) has been this season, Kimbrel (2-3, 0.49 ERA, 23 saves) is at another level. The 33-year-old addition was leading the National League in WHIP (0.71), strikeouts per 9 innings (15.7) and opponents batting average (.106) before being moved.
"He's been unbelievable," Tepera said. "It's been fun to watch. Me and (Andrew) Chafin kind of setting it up for him and he went out and did his job. I think he's better than he ever has been, possibly. It's been cool to see and his work ethic is unbelievable."
Tepera will likely be setting up both Kimbrel and Hendriks for save opportunities.
"We have a plan for how it's going to work but until it gets communicated to (Kimbrel), I don't want to talk about it," Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "It's a heck of a move by the front office. The addition of him and Tepera and (second baseman Cesar) Hernandez, just a reward to the players for the first half of busting it to be in this position. I had the opportunity in Boston to be with Craig, not only is he a legendary, historic kind of closer, but a great teammate, a great person."
Kimbrel, who is expected to join the White Sox on Saturday, has $5.6 million left on his contract this season and a $16 million club option for 2022.
With Kimbrel, Hernandez and Tepera on the roster, and with injured center fielder Luis Robert and catcher Yasmani Grandal due back soon, the White Sox are set up to make a deep run in October.
"We are better today than we were yesterday," Hahn said. "We know that. We are better the end of this week than we were the end of last week. We look forward to Luis Robert to continue to progress and joining us over the next few weeks. Yasmani Grandal not too far behind him. And knock on wood, we continue to build what we've done over the first four months, get healthy and acclimate these new players to our clubhouse and put ourselves in a position come October to be a very dangerous team. That's the goal."