White Sox: In a Wild Trade Deadline, Rick Hahn Silenced the Doubters
Dealing Nick Madrigal for Craig Kimbrel is the type of move that World Series contenders make.
“I’ve been at this a while now. Maybe with time, I’ve forgotten, but certainly, in all my years, I don’t remember one like this.”
Chicago White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams can’t remember a trade deadline like the one we just witnessed, and neither can I. Friday was a feverish finish in the hours leading up to 3:00 pm (ct) as we watched contenders push their chips all in to solidify their shot at a World Series, and pretenders flip their present-day stars for hopeful stars of tomorrow to reset.
We saw the end of an era for a pair of recent champions. The Chicago Cubs (2016) dealt away their core and then some, while the Washington Nationals (2019) dealt away their core and pretty much anyone with a pulse.
Well, the Colorado Rockies did just about what you expect a poverty franchise to do… nothing. They held onto free agents to be Trevor Story and Jon Gray, with the notion that the compensatory picks they’ll receive this winter are the best path for them.
In all, 21 trades were consummated across baseball yesterday, and they featured 10 All-Stars changing jerseys. But if you’re a fan of the team that resides at 333 W. 35th St., then you were probably sweating it out for much of Friday morning and afternoon.
Watching the Dodgers add Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Watching the Rays, Astros, Padres, Blue Jays, Yankees, and the rest of the potential October threats to the White Sox add impact players to their roster via trade.
Sure, César Hernández and Ryan Tepera were nice additions by Rick Hahn on Thursday, but they left more to be desired.
César Hernández checks multiple boxes for the White Sox outside of the acquisition cost. In 96 games in Cleveland this season, Hernández is slashing .231/.307/.431 with 18 home runs, 47 RBI, 60 runs scored, a 100 wRC+, and 1.8 fWAR.
Hernández solidifies the White Sox gaping hole at second base and will provide them with a veteran switch-hitter with some pop who can glove it pretty well as well. A staunch upgrade from the alternatives Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick and Hernández’s contract comes with a $6 million club option for the 2022 season, giving the White Sox the option to retain Hernández in place of the now-departed Nick Madrigal.
Ryan Tepera, who’s enjoying a solid season that features a 2.91 ERA, 10.38 K/9, and a 0.78 WHIP over 43 appearances on the other side of town, provides the White Sox with a dependable right-handed option in the middle innings that they desperately needed.
Last night didn’t go great for Tepera in his White Sox debut (1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB), but things happen. His overall body of work this season — and last season for that matter — leaves me still plenty confident in the impact he’ll make serving as a bridge between the starters and the big dogs in the back of the ‘pen.
Still, it wasn’t until about 1:16 pm that you really began to feel good about Rick Hahn’s trade deadline haul.
At 1:16 pm, I got a text from a friend you might know from this publication’s days covering both sides of town, Austin Bloomberg; “You’re getting Kimbrel.”
Shortly thereafter, it was confirmed by the Passan’s and Rosenthal’s of the baseball insider world, and I was ecstatic.
It is important to note here that a local guy broke the Kimbrel news on Friday. Bleacher Nation’s Michael Cerami beat the national guys to the punch on that one, so nice get, Michael.
So we knew we were getting Craig Kimbrel, but there was an 8-10 minute period where we didn’t know who was heading the other way. But, of course, that brief period felt three times as long.
At 1:27 pm, I got a text from a good friend; “Wow, Madrigal?!?”
Ouch. Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer ended up being the return, and that news initially felt like a shock. I said aloud to my son, who was next to me, that Madrigal was heading to the Cubs, news he wasn’t happy to hear as he was a big fan of Madrigal.
“Nick Madrigal is watching this [season] from home rehabbing his hammy, Craig Kimbrel helps this team get closer to winning a World Series,” was my knee-jerk response to my son.
With that response, the initial shock of the name itself was gone for me. That’s the price you pay to sit at the table in October.
Nick Madrigal is a nice player who Cubs fans will grow to love during his time there, but at the end of the day, I feel like Steve Stone said it best on Friday; Nick Madrigal is just good. He’s going to hit for average and rarely strikeout, but he’s limited with the glove, and he makes some wonky decisions on the basepaths.
On the Cubs, he might be their everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter for years to come. On the White Sox, he was just a good player in a bevy of great-to-star players. Nevertheless, he was their most valuable bargaining piece, and Rick Hahn put on his big boy pants and sold high on the former fourth-overall selection from 2018 on Friday afternoon.
That’s what contenders do.
“As I discussed with Craig, a few weeks ago, Kenny 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?'” Rick Hahn said during a Friday Zoom call. “He and I had the same answer, and that was the player we acquired today.
“We view him as playing a key role here, obviously over the next few months getting us in position for the postseason. But come October, providing Tony and [pitching coach] Ethan [Katz] and Has [assistant pitching coach Curt Hasler] with a variety of weapons at the back end to help shorten games."
Craig Kimbrel is ninth on the all-time saves list with 371 career saves. He has an enchanting season in which he’s only allowed two earned runs in 39 appearances (0.49 ERA) while striking out opposing hitters at a 15.71 K/9 clip.
Ryan Tepera has played with him for each of the past two seasons on the Northside, and he thinks he’s as good as he’s ever been.
“He's been unbelievable. It's been fun to watch,” Tepera said. “I think he's better than he ever has been, possibly. It's been cool to see, and his work ethic is unbelievable. It's fun to watch him in the weight room and on the field, and just the way he goes about his business.”
Tony La Russa, a guy who knows a thing or two about bullpens, thinks that the Kimbrel addition is a welcomed reward for a group that has battled its way through a ridiculous amount of injuries through the first 104 games of the season, and check-in today with a 61-43 record with a nine-game lead over second-place Cleveland.
“It’s a heck of a move by the front office,” said La Russa. “The addition of him and [Ryan] Tepera and [César] Hernández, just a reward to the players for the first half of busting it to be in this position.”
I’ve said it many times, and I’ll repeat it; the question is no longer a matter of whether or not the White Sox can win the American League Central. That’s a given at this point.
The question is now, can the White Sox beat other World Series contenders in a seven-game series in October.
Securing Craig Kimbrel and solidifying that bullpen will go a long way towards answering those questions in the affirmative.
Featured Photo: Kyle Cooper/Colorado Rockies | Credit: Getty Images