Spare Parts: Craig Kimbrel uneasily eases into spring

The Craig Kimbrel experience is currently trapped between the tension of “It’s just a first spring training game” and “It’s just a first spring training game after two months where he looked just that bad.”

Kimbrel departed his 2022 debut against Texas on Wednesday after just two-thirds of an inning, during which he gave up five runs (four earned) on two hits, two walks and an HBP.

Kimbrel downplayed both the results and the velocity, which would ordinarily be the bigger concern given that he sat 93-94 mph.

“Overall, I felt pretty good,”  Kimbrel said after his outing. “Ball was coming out a little harder than the effort I was putting into it. Today, I was working on direction, getting down the mound, trying to stay in my pitches. I did that for a couple batters, and didn’t for a couple of other ones.

“Overall, coming out of the outing, I feel good, I feel strong, just going to work off of it and go into the next one.”

This could very well be the case, because while we are too familiar with what Kimbrel might look like at the end of the season, we’re not acquainted with his process before the season. At the same time, plummeting velocity was a big part of his post-trade issues, as it gradually dropped after peaking in June

… and given that the last time his velocity covered that range was during his equally miserable 2019 season, Sox fans have the right to be wary about any display that’s less than his best.

The last thing anybody wants to see is Kimbrel entering the season walking this high wire with reduced velocity, because he’s taking Rick Hahn’s decision-making process with him. One of the reasons I understood the team’s reasoning for withholding the qualifying offer from Carlos Rodón is that the White Sox shouldn’t be making an $18.4 million decision without conviction. If they thought there was a chance of wasting time and resources trying to offload it for commensurate value, the potential draft pick might not be worth the distraction.

It’s just hard to square that up with giving Kimbrel $16 million for the express purpose of trading him. If a suitor fails to materialize, the chance of defining the sunk-cost fallacy for a new generation of White Sox fans is a little too present, as is the chance of “throwing good money after bad” being too literal in multiple senses.

Meanwhile, Nick Madrigal is out there solving outfield corners.

SPARE PARTS

Speaking of pennywise and dollar stupid, James Fegan tries to make sense of the White Sox’s unwillingness to close a very narrow gap in Lucas Giolito’s 2022 salary negotiations, which could head to a trial over a difference of $200,000. His situation is one I had in mind when writing about Tim Anderson being the last of his kind a couple of days ago.

Now that the lockout is over, Friend of the Show Jim Callis is free to unleash the full fury of his prospect rankings to an adoring audience. We’re just an Eric Longenhagen review away from having all lists to compare.

Because we have to meet a quota, this inside look at the Twins’ signing of Carlos Correa could offer some insight on a potential negotiation process for Michael Conforto, if one is ever going occur. With Pham signing with Cincinnati, he’s the last outfielder standing.

In the latest Chronicles of Cheapness, the Cleveland Guardians are spending as much on their payroll as they did when Ellis Burks occupied their DH spot, while the Baltimore Orioles are the only team not sending either TV or radio teams on the road. They’re still using “out of an abundance of caution” with a straight face.

Jonah Keri’s prolonged fall from grace ends with a prison term that was nearly twice the prosecution’s minimum sentencing request. Notably, the judge rejected letters of support that Keri provided at the sentencing hearing two months ago, because they merely emphasized how Keri went undetected.

“Several describe how they were shocked when they found out about the charges because they did not believe the offender was capable of such violent behaviour towards a spouse. That statement leads to three troubling observations. First, it shows how the offender is able to construct an image of himself that is very different from reality,” the judge said while reading from his 20-page decision. “Next, one wonders who would have believed the victim if she had not carefully documented the violent incidents. Finally, (the letters) are also a perfect illustration of the insidious nature of conjugal violence; it is a tragedy experienced in private by women from all walks of life that is unfortunately all too infrequently reported.”

As a big Earwolf listener (and somebody letting a Stitcher Premium subscription runs its course), I’ve been wondering about why notable shows have departed the network to go their own way, and others sound bitter about celebrities getting the priority lane for a medium they helped develop. Not that I have a stake in this or anything.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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vince

The Sox are projected to be a top team in the AL, have a payroll a lot closer to what I thought it should be than the offseason project pegged it at — I should be excited about this season.

The lockout, Hahn’s mishandling of Giolito’s arbitration, Sox’ underwhelming offseason, Kimbrel looking cooked as ever, and Hahn’s strange allocation of resources are making me much more dour about this season than last.

md03

Exactly how do we waste 200 mill like this? Especially knowing our top players are way underpaid (with us trying to nickel and dime one of our best players as the cherry on top). We’re talking Garpax levels of incompetence so the only solution I see is overhauling the front office here. If they don’t win a playoff series this whole thing is a travesty.

roke1960

I agree 100%. I can’t imagine that a team with legitimate World Series aspirations could have a worse offseason than this. As depth pieces, Harrison, Kelly and Graveman are fine. But paying $42M for those two relievers was just not necessary with all the names that were out there and got much less. Harrison and Garcia are almost redundant. And no move at all to fix right field or backup catcher. Then non-tendering Rodon but picking up Kimbrel’s option? It is almost comical how bad Hahn did this winter- almost Garpax incompetence (I don’t even think Hahn could be that bad). Then pissing off Giolito over $200K? He’s gone after next year if they don’t trade him before then. Maybe Hahn’s got a plan and this all works out, and we’re celebrating in November. But this thing could really go off the rails fast with a couple of injuries. The only good thing if that happens is then Hahn would probably be gone. I never thought Jerry would clean out the Bulls front office, and it finally took staggering incompetence for him to do that.. But then that would mean the last 6 years were a complete exercise in futility.

Last edited 3 months ago by roke1960
jhomeslice

This team has the wrong GM, wrong manager, and wrong owner. This team has a ton of talent, but have not improved upon it in the ways they needed to. Of course Reinsdorf prevents Hahn from signing guys like Springer or anybody that would actually make this team World Series caliber. But Hahn chose Graveman and Kelly, and to pick up Kimbrel’s option. Inexcusable. Graveman was never good prior to 2021. Kelly was hurt at the end of last year, was hurt in 2020, and not great in 2018/2019. Tepera, McHugh, Chafin all seem like they would have been better relievers with better track records for less money. How can they not take those things into consideration? It would not surprise me if their bullpen is not even that much of a strength.

Jerry could clean out the front office (and manager), but he would need to clean himself out too because he is the biggest problem of all. I fear you are right and that the last few years will wind up an exercise in complete futility. It sure seems headed that way.

TylerDurden

Tepera 7. Or Kimbrel 16
McHugh 5.5. Graveman 8
Chafin 6.5. Kelly 8 ( on IL )

Total: 19mil. Or 32 mil.

This team would have 13 mil extra payroll room for ThIS year to add…if front office had any idea of the market and they’re budget allocation…

then to add o I don’t know Manaea/Montas

Or Eduardo Escobar at 2B ( more power, switch hitter!!! and more consistent and better OPS+)

Or Conforto, obviously.

This list of opportunities go far beyond this obviously if they were more creative.

Last edited 3 months ago by TylerDurden
As Cirensica

You forgot to mention we didn’t exercise Cesar Hernandez option at 6M who is an everyday 2B, switch hitter with gold glove caliber who is a decent bet to provide better numbers he gave us during his brief stint with the White Sox.

instead, Hahn signed a more expensive infielder in Josh Harrison at 7M. Harrison is 3 years older than Cesar. Harrison can play multiple positions while not being good at any of them in a team that already had Leury for that.

Hahn’s baseball acumen is just so bad.

Last edited 3 months ago by As Cirensica
NDSox12

Harrison is not going to make 7M. He’s 4M with a 1.5M buyout (effectively 5.5M). Personally, I would rather have him than Hernandez anyway.

As Cirensica

OK. Thanks for the correction. We all understand the difference 500K can make. Ask Giolito in case of any doubts. I rather we have Cesar.

Augusto Barojas

I should hope Harrison will be better than what they got from Cesar last year. That’s setting the bar pretty low. I mean Cesar had a -0.7 WAR after the Sox got him. He was awful.

Trooper Galactus

Josh Harrison had -0.5 WAR after the A’s got him. He was also awful.

Trooper Galactus

Initial reporting I saw stated 1/$5.5m with a $1.5m buyout. I think it was corrected later, but either way, it’s still an unnecessary expense and they basically signed a guy who had the same sort of season Cesar Hernandez did.

HallofFrank

That’s really stretching the meaning of “same sort of season.” Harrison was much better.

Trooper Galactus

He was better than Cesar before the trade but every bit as awful after.

BenwithVen

I can’t wait for this version of the White Sox to get their own “Untitled” video on the Secret Base YT channel. I can only imagine the Kimbrel trade and then picking up Kimbrel’s option will be featured heavily in that video.

BenwithVen

Probably worth sharing,

Fegan commented on his most recent article that Hahn has put off James’ yearly end of the offseason 1-on-1 interview because Hahn doesn’t view the offseason as finished and that it might run into a few weeks of the season.

Last edited 3 months ago by BenwithVen
HallofFrank

I’ve wondered before if a Kimbrel trade would look like that. I suspect a major sticking point in any trade discussions about Kimbrel is the drop in velocity at the end of the season. Teams might (understandably) want to see him in-game action first to see if the velocity is there. So, it wouldn’t shock me if a Kimbrel trade came together shortly after the start of the season—though the first spring outing is an ominous omen.

jhomeslice

I just don’t see how it was not obvious to everybody at the time they picked up the option that his value as a FA would have been nowhere near 16M, and that if he pitches poorly to start, they are stuck with him. Picking up his option was one of the dumbest and most incompetent things I’ve ever seen as a Sox fan, and I’ve seen a lot. So little upside it wasn’t even worth considering.

HallofFrank

It wasn’t obvious at the time, even to industry professionals. Maybe you’re just smarter than the industry, but the consensus at the time was that the Sox would get *something* for Kimbrel. But the market hasn’t acted like it was predicted to—for example, Kenley was projected for 2/$26m, but only got 1/$16m. Kenley should be more valuable, but not by much (Kimbrel was actually better in ’21). It’s certainly a mistake, but it was a defensible one. 

Signing Joe Kelly when it should have been clear that Kimbrel wasn’t getting traded, on the other hand…. 

Qubort

I’m interested how many people picked up his option in the Offseason Plan. What makes it such a mistake to me, is it appears them picking up his option slowed their willingness fill other holes. If they signed a backup catcher and outfielder, then who cares about Kimbrel contract.

HallofFrank

I do think you bring up a fair point about the upside of the move, however. The best case scenario is, what, a 40 FV prospect? And the risk is getting stuck with a $16m contact you don’t want—a big deal for a team unwilling to spend big.

But, I’ll also add: all else being equal, I’d rather have Kimbrel than not have Kimbrel. Kimbrel’s $16m contract is only a problem if the Sox front office makes it so. It’s just money, after all, and it’s not my money. I’m all for having a super bullpen. It becomes super annoying when they fail to address every day positions well. 

jhomeslice

If they do have a super bullpen, I will be surprised. And if Kimbrel is any part of that, I will be even more surprised. I liked Tyler’s post, could have had 3 relievers who might all turn out better than they 3 they got, for a lot less money.

HallofFrank

I’d be *very* surprised if Chafin/Tepera/McHugh were better than Kimbrel/Kelly/Graveman. I’d much, much prefer the three the Sox got, all else being equal. But, I think Tyler’s point is still right: maybe the three the Sox got are better, but are they $19m better? Probably not. No doubt, Hahn’s assembly of this bullpen has been a disaster.

But, again, this is only a problem if the Sox make it a problem. It’s only a problem that the Sox spent $19m to get a slightly better bullpen *if* that $19m prohibits them from spending elsewhere. And it looks like it is, which is the problem.

Qubort

The $1 million dollar buyout was too embarrassing for Jerry, so they turned it into a $16 million dollar error.

HallofFrank

For these lower velocity anecdotes (Hendriks before and now Kimbrel): it would be helpful to reference them against previous first spring outings. Maybe that data doesn’t exist, or it only exists in random blog posts. But it would seem like that would help in determining how much an initial dip in velocity is concerning or just plain normal.

tommytwonines

It’s quite possible Conforto hasn’t received any Covid shots, from what I’ve heard. That could be the hold-up for many teams interested in his bat.

tommytwonines

At this point, the White Sox will need to eat some money to get back a decent prospect for Kimbrel. It’s probably best to keep him around right now so he can regain his form, although they’ll risk the possibility of DFAing him mid-season like Eaton because he’s just lousy.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Will they start him out at closer though? I know it should not matter, but it does seem like he has some weird psychological thing about 8th vs 9th inning. Seems like they need to have him close at the outset to maximize his chances of any success, if they want any chance to get rid of him.

I could totally see them being forced to DFA him mid season, would punctuate the degree of idiocy of this offseason.

Last edited 3 months ago by LamarHoyt_oncrack
BenwithVen

If he’s so bad that they DFA Kimbrel midseason, I don’t know how you can keep Hahn around as GM after this season. It’s bad enough we have to endure stories of Madrigal recruiting Suzuki to the Cubs.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I think they could easily find a better GM than Hahn. But whoever they get, if they are restricted with the contracts they give out the way Hahn has been, it won’t make a big difference in the end.

Theo Epstein isn’t currently a GM as far as I know. I say bring him in, if he would take the job. I know people weren’t happy with everything he did with the Cubs, but he did get them a World Series and two other NLCS appearances. And of course he did great with the RedSox. I mean there is no doubt he is way more intelligent and savvy than Hahn. I think there are fans on this website who would make better choices than Hahn, honestly. Just because someone like Hahn somehow winds up in the ranks of professional sports front offices doesn’t mean they are particularly smart. The Bears have proven that beyond any doubt.

dwjm3

The problem we have in getting a topflight GM is Reinsdorf.

Hahn said last offseason that decisions are typically made by consensus of him, Kenny, and Jerry.

I imagine Jerry would have to give up his seat at the table in order for a top shelf candidate to take the job.

If you want Theo, I know he would demand that type of control because he negotiated full control of personnel decisions with Ricketts. He said Ricketts told him what his budget was and he ran with it.

jhomeslice

Yeah, it is going to be really, really hard if not impossible to win a championship with Reinsdorf. There is just no getting around that.

metasox

Will be really interesting to see how Madrigal comes back from surgery. Heuer having TJ surgery makes the original deal look a little less unbalanced.

Willardmarshall

That velo chart does grab one’s attention….

a-t

This team is constructed great for like 75-80% of it— the rotation is top-tier, 6/9 positions have above-average to star starters under long-ish term control, the bullpen is excellent— and extremely strangely constructed for the remaining portion.

The Madrigal-Kimbrel trade was weird at the time for the Madrigal portion bc that was their one plan at 2B, and this fall picking up Kimbrel’s option but not Cesar’s was weird too. It’s only more baffling now that Harrison— 3 years older than Cesar, RHB instead of a switch-hitter, projects worse, and is making $1M less than Cesar’s declined option— is effectively Plan A at 2B given that Leury’s utility services across the diamond will likely be employed early and often.

There’s no reason they couldn’t have offered a little more than Seattle did for a year of Adam Frazier’s services (a decent relief prospect and taking on his arb-3 salary, basically), nor at least matched the contract (2y/$20M + club option) the Mets gave to Escobar… since they basically gave Joe Kelly 85% of that deal. (I like Joe Kelly a lot for his player profile, vibes, mariachi suit, and his habit of frequent participation in the World Series, but that deal seems expensive). The decision-making at 2B drives me nuts more than at RF even.

They’ll still probably win the division unless Minnesota REALLY bolsters its pitching staff. But man, the rebuild has gone very smoothly, only Reynaldo/Rutherford/Basabe/Collins really busting of the ~12-15 core rebuild prospects is an incredibly lucky hit rate— especially given that the rebuild largely targeted high-ceiling high-risk guys! Not all their fates are settled ofc, Vaughn/Kopech/Burger’s fates are still up in the air, but man. To have that much go right but to (so far) badly muff the finishing touches is just silly.

jhomeslice

You made some really great points. I mean, in terms of luck, they got incredibly lucky with some of their initial trades. They deal Eaton for Giolitio, Lopez, and Dunning, then flip Dunning for Lynn? I mean for Eaton they wound up with Giolito and Lynn! Then Quintana for Eloy and Cease. Sale helped the BoSox win a title so that wasn’t an unbalanced trade like the others, Moncada/Kopech was a fair return. Their return for Q/Eaton was just sick. They will never get that lucky again in a hundred trades. Without those incredibly lopsided trades in their favor, this rebuild would be an utter disaster.

As you said, to have that much go right and then muff the finishing touches… man. It’s a pretty sad blown opportunity. All isn’t lost (yet), but the past two winters they just didn’t make this team what it could have been, because of the short term contract bullshit. It’s just about all about money and Reinsdorf, in the end.

a-t

I mean, Eaton also helped Washington win a title, and Q’s bargain-bin extension helped allow the Cubs sign Darvish too. That Eaton and Q really declined after being traded makes the Sox look really good, true. But prospect trades go both ways… for instance, trading away a Hall of Fame caliber SS talent (if a mercurial one) for a workhorse pitcher with one foot in the glue factory is also something that’s highly unlikely to repeat.

The failures of free agency is really baffling, though. Harper or Wheeler take this team from a standard division winner to a best-in-baseball contender. Maybe the payroll is a little more constrained, but if you’re Spending The Money on relievers anyways…

Joliet Orange Sox

I am very frustrated with the offseason that is coming to a close. I am in general not willing to defend Hahn. That said, I believe the two previous post talking about Hahn being very lucky don’t give Hahn fair credit for the Sale, Eaton, and Quintana trades. Hahn was responsible for the fact that those three players were all signed to very team-friendly deals that made them all very highly coveted which allowed him to hold out for top prospects which he did. Hahn deserves credit both for the team-friendly contracts and the trades.

There is plenty to bash Hahn for but it was more than just luck that those deals worked out. Unfortunately, as Jim wrote about recently, the team-friendly extension that Hahn was the master of is no longer really a thing.

Trooper Galactus

I said on a podcast recently that what Hahn does well he does VERY well, and getting value out of those trades was a HUGE feather in his cap because if he screws those up we’re basically the Marlins. The problem is his M.O. to round out the core he successfully built is to try to grab value out of short term, low cost players instead of top free agents and it almost always blows up in his face and costs the team wins.

Last edited 3 months ago by Trooper Galactus
Joliet Orange Sox

I agree with Trooper Galactus on this. I disagree with the posters I was replying to who attributed the good trades to Hahn being incredibly lucky. Giolito, Moncada, Eloy, Kopech, Cease, were all on lists of top prospects. Hahn deserves credit for acquiring them.

HallofFrank

Yes, thank you. This offseason has been frustrating and I’m all for reasonable criticism of the FO brass, but that’s turned into “everything about the white Sox is bad, they have no shot, blah blah blah” and that’s just exhausting. The way I look at it is: there are so many good reasons to be critical of the Sox FO, why does anyone feel the need to dig up bad ones?

jorgefabregas

Audio webcast of today’s game https://www.mlb.com/giants

calcetinesblancos

Wow, talk about a hard kick in the balls; Madrigal successfully accomplished what Hahn and Kenny hoped Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay would, and all it took were some shitty sketches that a four year old could’ve produced.

I’m just about done with this team. The lockout got me thinking about more productive uses of my time, and it’s clear the Sox mgmt doesn’t actually want to win it all. They made us watch years of purposely bad baseball for no reason.

a-t

I don’t think Madrigal really had that much of an effect lol. Also, as currently constructed this team is still heavily favored to win the division. It’s not out of doubt like it really should be, but the Twins pitching staff as is pretty terrible, and on the position player side heavily dependent on somewhat injury-prone Correa and very injury-prone Buxton. Sox FO has certainly been sniffing its own farts this offseason, but there’s already a very talented squad assembled.

calcetinesblancos

Yeah but it’s clear as day what needs to happen for this team to take the next step. Why can’t they just once do things the easy, obvious way? And now the reality is guys like Abreu, Giolito, etc. will be gone soon.

Foulkelore

It’s a cute story, but I’m guessing the pictures wouldn’t have mattered if the Cubs bid had $50 million less in guaranteed money than another bid (the real reason the Sox didn’t get Machado).