White Sox offseason opens with Craig Kimbrel option rumor

You could make the case that the offseason doesn’t start until Bob Nightengale ambles into the room to breezily delivery a potentially controversial White Sox scoop.

Last October, he leveraged his position as Jerry Reinsdorf’s favorite reporter to be the first to correctly identify the White Sox’s eventual choice for replacing Rick Renteria as manager.

The Chicago White stunned the baseball industry Monday morning when they announced the firing of manager Rick Renteria.

They could shock the world with their next hire.

The White Sox plan to reach out to one of the greatest managers in baseball history, who managed his last game in 2011, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame six years ago, and who is 76 years old.

The name: Tony La Russa.

And while his confidence in his White Sox front office sources sometimes leads him to state things that haven’t happened as already done, only to see them never actually materalize …

… he’s correct enough that this tweet probably sets the expectation for the most expensive club option they have to consider:

Nightengale is saying the quiet part loud, but it probably doesn’t matter. Everybody saw the same thing. The question is whether people really believe his struggles stemmed from pitching in the eighth inning, or it was more because his velocity peaked in June, and as it sagged throughout August and September, the contact increased, much of it louder.

Kimbrel also exacerbated his own issues. His WHIP with the White Sox was a respectable 1.217 — not elite, but better than that of Aaron Bummer and Garrett Crochet. It felt worse because of his tendency to give away 90 feet freely, whether with stolen bases (five in six attempts) or wild pitches (five in 23 innings). He hasn’t had to worry about traffic on the basepaths for a large part of his career, and the lack of training shows.

Add in the entirety of Kimbrel’s Cubs career, and it seems like he’s somebody whose success is delicately constructed. When everything is calibrated and fully powered, he’s damn near impossible to hit, but any problems can snowball on him rather quickly. He might not be the worst gamble for a team, especially if they’re able to get a contract that’s outlived its usefulness off their books. If he can put it together for a half-season, he might be just as flippable next July, even if the return is less than an injured Nick Madrigal.

The Sox just have to make sure they understand the interest, because they can’t afford Kimbrel’s $16 million to get in the way of solving greater issues. Liam Hendriks is on that kind of AAV and earned it in 2021, and we can still debate whether the first year was worth the White Sox’s while, because the rest of the team couldn’t get him an inning that mattered when it counted the most.

* * * * * * * * *

As for the other dollar amounts the White Sox have to consider immediately, the White Sox have a $6 million option for César Hernández (lol), as well as a qualifying offer to weigh for Carlos Rodón, which MLB Trade Rumors says will be an $18.4 million decision this year.

MLBTR also issued the projections for the arbitration-eligible White Sox:

  • Evan Marshall – $2.3MM
  • Brian Goodwin – $1.7MM
  • Lucas Giolito – $7.9MM
  • Adam Engel – $2.2MM
  • Reynaldo Lopez – $2.8MM
  • Jace Fry – $1.0MM
  • Jimmy Cordero – $1.2MM

Rodón’s situation will come up first, as a team has to make a qualifying offer in the five-day period between the end of the World Series and the start of free agency. When it comes to the arb-eligible players, the White Sox don’t have to make those calls until Dec. 1, which is also the day the current collective bargaining agreement expires. The CBA situation might overshadow every other procedure by then.

(Photo by Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

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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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Brett R. Bobysud

I forget who it was that brought this up (might’ve been Josh on a podcast at some point), but someone mentioned the possibility of trying to package Kimbrel and Keuchel together in an attempt to move Keuchel’s contract.

Maybe a team like Cincinnati that’s sort of in a competitive window and could use pitching help would be interested.

mikeyb

I can’t even imagine a team wanting Kimbrel’s contract by itself. Then to add Keuchel to the mix?

If there is a team out there that needs a $16 million reliever plus an overpaid 5th starter innings eater, that team would probably look a lot like the White Sox. Playoff contender with only 3 real SPs on their MLB roster and nobody in the high minors ready to supplement them. A bullpen that was good but is probably losing its best reliever to free agency (Tepera).

If the Sox don’t want Kimbrel and the Sox don’t want Keuchel, I really don’t see why any other team would want them.

Last edited 9 months ago by mikeyb
jhomeslice

I agree. Looking at Kimbrel, a team has to consider that he had an ERA over 5 in 2020, and over 6.5 in 2019. I don’t see how any team can have confidence that the 2nd half for him was just an aberration.

Would be such a sox thing to do to sign him for 16M and find no takers unless they pay them 8M. They’re not going to get a prospect worth 8M in return, I’m sorry.

calcetinesblancos

Joe Crede round 2.

metasox

Kimbrel threw 20.2 innings in ’20 and 15.1 in the short ’21 season when many players were off their game. Combined, that is well less than one full season of work for him. I don’t know his history, but teams will look back at what was going on that caused problems moreso than fixate on the numbers.

Trooper Galactus

And none of them will gamble $16 million, much less a player or prospect of value, to try to fix him. Also, yes, there are some small sample sizes at play here, but if you consider the entirety of his contract, he had 57 appearances across 2+ seasons where he was pretty godawful split by 47 appearances in the last month of 2020 and the first three months of 2021 where he was awesome. That’s almost two full seasons of relief work, and he was terrible in half of them. That’s just not an elite reliever, and the guy isn’t getting any younger.

HallofFrank

What? If you think there aren’t teams out there, even teams with playoff aspirations, with greater needs at SP depth and bullpen help than the White Sox, you aren’t very familiar with other teams.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I don’t care how great a team’s needs for SP and bullpen depth are, Keuchel and Kimbrel are not appealing options. Why would other teams want these 2 overpriced and decling veterans, when the Sox have their own needs for SP and bullpen depth and want to get rid of both?

HallofFrank

Notice that I did not say any team would be interested in Kimbrel or Keuchel. You’re replying to a point I didn’t make. I replied to mikeyb, who suggested the White Sox needs for SP depth and bullpen are as great as other team’s needs. And that’s false.

Even so, I’ll respond to your point. I grant that Keuchel is not appealing—even very unappealing!—at his price. I still think he’s rosterable and a decent 5th starter option to start the season, but no way will teams want to take on his contract.

As for Kimbrel, I think Sox fans’ disbelief at the idea that anyone would want Kimbrel stems from (understandable) jaded recency bias. Despite frustrating spurts of inconsistency, it’s clear that he can still pitch at an elite level. If he were a FA, he may not get $16m AAV, but he’d get more guaranteed money than that. And as we’ve seen, teams prefer less guaranteed years/money even if it means higher AAV (which is why Sox fans would consider a $18m QO to Rodon but not a guaranteed 3 years, $50m). I expect the Sox to pick up the option and deal Kimbrel for something. They won’t recoup the value they lost, obviously, but it won’t be nothing.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Sorry, misunderstood the point you were making… did not mean to take out of context.

chibaseball35

I’m sure the office has a decent feel for any interest in Kimbrel. I personally don’t want to see him throw another pitch for the Sox. He is very, very 1 dimensional and he must be at his peak to be useful as such. As far as Rodon, I think Rick will do a dance if he can grab Rodon for 3 and 50. I think it’s going to take more than that.

Last edited 9 months ago by chibaseball35
HallofFrank

Yeah, fair, Rodón may do better than I think. It does seem like a lot for a guy with his injury history, especially given his flame out this year. But I think he did a lot for himself in game 4, only because he showed he still has that velocity.

chibaseball35

Yeah that guy pushed the limits for coming back from TJ, and he threw gas up until about what 150+ innings.

Trooper Galactus

Rodon went on the IL after 109.2 innings. He returned without the same fastball and threw another 23 innings for 132.2 total. Even in this, his best season by far, he couldn’t get deep into it.

Trooper Galactus

It is not clear that Kimbrel can still pitch at an elite level. In fact, over the last 3+ seasons that’s been the exception for him, not the norm, and, as Jim noted, he fell apart pretty quickly.

jorgefabregas

If the Sox were operating like a big market team, then Keuchel would still be around and would be the 7th or 8th SP option (like David Price was for the Dodgers). It’s not like he’s hopeless–he was diminished this year. His velocity was the same as the previous year basically. And he does have a history of figuring things out and putting it back together.

metasox

Keuchel was effective in the ’20 short season and not too bad for much of ’21. If he could be counted on for half a season, that would still be useful if a team has starting depth

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I have hopes that he just had a bad year for whatever reason. He isn’t that old (not even 34 yet), nor does he rely on high velocity as if a sudden decline was the issue. I don’t expect great things nor do I think a team will trade for him, but he might get something straightened out and wind up having some value to the Sox as a mediocre but not awful back end starter.

texag10

I almost wonder if Keuchel was a season long victim of our lack of shifting. The defensive positioning was a huge difference between 2020 and 2021 and I don’t think either one of those seasons are true talent level for him, does better shifting get Keuchel to a mid 4 ERA?

Trooper Galactus

The same could be said of Bummer, who just got BABIP’d to death. But Keuchel had more problems with the long ball also, if I’m not mistaken, so the defense isn’t entirely to blame for his struggles.

vince

I don’t want to watch Kimbrel throw another pitch in a White Sox uniform.

lifelongjd

In Sox world, every million matters. Picking up the Kimbrel option would be compounding a bad outcome into two. I didn’t and still don’t mind the trade in an of itself (the Houston series showed the value of hitting only singles like Madrigal does), but for whatever reason it didn’t work. Kimbrel’s $16m option can be used in much more valuable ways. Move on please, Rick.

SpringerDinger!

I guess $6M isn’t too much to eat in the interim while waiting to see if Romy or JoseR can produce in the show.

calcetinesblancos

If the options are Hernandez or Romy, I’ll take Romy, although I’d be fine with anyone at 2B as long as they have better speed than Madrigal and get on base.

Trooper Galactus

Madrigal’s speed wasn’t the problem. His problem was the decisions he made when running.

Greg Nix

Yuck. $6m should get you a better player than what Cesar showed us.

texag10

In seasons with more than 200 PAs, Hernandez’s lowest fWAR was 1.3. He had 217 with us and put up exactly 0.0. I have no idea why he absolutely fell off a cliff but the power disappeared, the contact disappeared, and the defense significantly dropped off. $6M should definitely get you better than what Cesar showed us but I also have a hard time believing this is the true Cesar but I have no explanation for what happened.

Joist

I did not know about the 0.0 thing. I just looked it up and that was also Kimbrel’s WAR. So the Sox traded Heuer, Madrigal, and Pilkington for LITERALLY (in a sense) nothing.

SpringerDinger!

I see your argument and raise you a “was Kimbrel worth the ~$6M he was due for the rest of this season?”

Last edited 9 months ago by SpringerDinger!
SpringerDinger!

At the time of the trade both options were probably looking pretty good. Hindsight is a, yeah.

Soxfan2

The White Sox were only going to “win” the Kimbrel trade if they got to or won the World Series, depending on your expectations. Now, if Jerry opens up his check book to fill some the holes on the current roster (2B, RF, etc) then trading Madrigal and Heur won’t kill us. Kimbrel’s trade value will be weird with a high price tag and sketchy second half. I do think it will be possible to do a contract swap with a team that needs a reliever.

Here are some OF’s with limited control that a team may be willing to trade centered around Kimbrel…

-Kevin Keirmaier (2022 Salary $12M)
-Wil Myers (2022 Salary $20M)
-Mitch Haniger (2022 Salary $8.5M)
-AJ Pollock (2022 Salary $13M)

Obviously, some of those opportunities are going to require the Sox to eat some money or throw in some prospects and some of them aren’t likely to happen. A deal centered on getting trading Kimbrel for a RFer and then signing Chris Taylor or Marcus Semien to play 2B would be a pretty good off-season. Again though, Jerry has to open up that check book to new levels.

knoxfire30

Sox should approach the pads about a kimbrel for frazier swap, both guys tanked after their trades but to start the off season the sox could do much worse then making this move which at least gives them a base level player who at worst starts in RF or at 2nd and hits 9th, but at best may be more of a utility guy if they go all out improving the roster.

Soxfan2

Honestly, totally forgot Frazier got traded to the Pads. I like that idea for 2B. I also wonder if the Mets would consider trading Nimmo? Free agent after this year and always hurt. It would depend on them signing someone like Starling Marte to play CF. Also, not sure if they’d consider moving Edwin Diaz off the closer role.

knoxfire30

The names I have heard so far that I like best as a return on Kimbrel are Frazier, Nimmo, and Pollock . Im sure there are some other possibilities out there. Sox have a decent size shopping list so they really shouldn’t have to hard a time being able to fill a need utilizing Kimbrel.

I also wonder if a team like say the Braves who may like Kimbrel would do some type of Kimbrel and prospect “x” for Drew Waters …. again realizing it may be hard to re-coup a top 100 prospect for just Kimbrel (if not impossible) there may be a way to add one of our blocked prospects to up the ante.

metasox

Why would the Mets part with Nimmo? I could see McNeil as a more likely possiblity after a down year. Could play 2B or RF

Last edited 9 months ago by metasox
Augusto Barojas

I think people are crazy to believe Sox are getting players of real value in return for Kimbrel.

knoxfire30

3 months ago every contender in baseball wanted him, and bad. Give everyone time to forget a bad second half in a new roll and to remember his stretches of dominance as a closer. He is going to have a market.

jhomeslice

I wish I could believe that you will prove right. His 2019 and 2020 numbers were terrible, so from another perspective, he’s really only had one good half season in the past 3 years.

If he were not on the Sox, and the Sox had need for a closer, would you want them to take a chance on him for 16M AND trade a prospect of value to do that given his terrible finish plus awful prior 2 years?

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I think it is naive to think that Kimbrel’s poor performance with the Sox did not change his value. It changed his value to the Sox. If he was great with the Sox, they would want to keep him. Instead they want to get rid of him. I don’t see prospects of value coming to the Sox to take a 16M gamble on Kimbrel after how poorly he showed the past 2 months, plus his prior recent years.

metasox

I doubt the Sox ever expected to keep Kimbrel. Regardless of what he did for them, it would have always made more sense to use the money for something else

HallofFrank

Yes, if that meant being able to spend the money saved elsewhere. $16m is high for one-year, but it’s extremely low guaranteed money and commitment for a top-of-the-market closer.

And his 2020 wasn’t as bad as people seem to think. His first four outings—in the middle of a pandemic and without fans—were a disaster: 2.2 IP, 5 ER. After that, he had 14 outings and only gave up a run in one of them. And with 26 Ks in 12.2 IP.

HallofFrank

Yeah, there’s definitely recency bias here. $16m guaranteed for a player of his caliber will for sure have a market. Look at last year’s pandemic-suppressed reliever market: Blake Trienen got $17.5m guaranteed last year. The two years before, he combined for -0.6 bWAR; his FIP was 5.14 and 3.14 in those 2 years. And people don’t think teams will be interested in Kimbrel because he was shaky for a month? And in that month he struck out 36 batters in 23 IP? He’ll have a market.

Trooper Galactus

People will be skeptical of Kimbrel because he was crap when playing in games that actually mattered and sucked shit in the two preceding seasons.

calcetinesblancos

-Kevin Keirmaier (2022 Salary $12M)
-Wil Myers (2022 Salary $20M)
-Mitch Haniger (2022 Salary $8.5M)
-AJ Pollock (2022 Salary $13M)

Haniger I like, would Pollack play RF? I don’t see the point of the other two.

texag10

Haniger ain’t getting traded.

Michael Kenny

The White Sox were only going to “win” the Kimbrel trade if they got to or won the World Series

Which is why it was a stupid trade to begin with. Consider what the Sox gave up for Ryan Tepera. If they had gotten another Ryan Tepera instead of Craig Kimbrel, how much worse would they have been, even if Kimbrel was what they were hoping for? The acquisition cost for Kimbrel was immense, even before factoring in his implosion. Plus, it’s abundantly clear that another elite reliever wasn’t going to put the Sox over the top.

Trooper Galactus

I could see Myers, maybe, but not the other three, who generally justify their money. Kimbrel has to be looked at as an underwater asset and trade targets will likely have to be similarly underwater. But why willingly take on an underwater asset just so you can get another one? Especially with the number of quality right fielders on the market this offseason?

PauliePaulie

I wonder if the Sox considered not picking up the option and using that $16mil to fill holes, instead of swapping it for another team’s expensive change-of-scenery guy, or packaging the few prospects we have left with Kimbrel for a decent return?

texag10

So we’ve already made the trade?

PauliePaulie

We’re going to keep him and spend $30mil on our set-up man and closer?

texag10

Just saying, you seem pretty certain there are only two possibilities for a Kimbrel trade that you must know something the rest of us don’t.

PauliePaulie

I believe the only reason the Sox are considering picking up the option is because their egos are too fragile to eat the necessary crow it takes to just walk away.
I believe that inability to walk away will just compound the bad decisions.
I believe GM’s will look at Kimbrel as a guy who’s had 2 good 1/2 seasons in the last 4. Who pooped the bed in 2 playoff appearances. I believe teams would place about an $8mil AAV on him right now.
If “the rest of you” see things differently, let’s hope everyone but me is right.

BenwithVen

Off the top of my head, the Phillies and the Reds seem to be fits for Kimbrel. Though in the Reds case, trading away Ingelsias only to trade assets for one year of Kimbrel is a pretty bad look.

Root Cause

Yep, put him in the NL so he can’t hurt you more if he somehow recovers from Summeritus.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

Makes sense. Declining his option makes the deal for Madrigal an all time terrible trade so might as well get something back for him. I trust some other team thinks they can sort him out in Spring Training.

HallofFrank

I do think the Sox should pick up the option and trade him just because they should be able to get something for him, but they absolutely shouldn’t do it for this reason. If the trade value isn’t there, then they shouldn’t pick up the option just to save face for the Madrigal trade. That’s just digging a bigger hole.

knoxfire30

You have to look at it as if Kimbrel was a free agent, what would he get?

To me 1 for 15-18 would be reasonable and I think he could get one or two teams to bite in that range

But 1 year for say 8-10 mil I think about 7-10 teams would be interested in that.

So if the sox are taking back a player with 5-8 mil on their deal or more, their value back should still be pretty decent.

The question will be are the sox straight dumping kimbrel which I think is a gamble at 16 mil or are they willing to buy down his number a bit to get a better fitting piece in which i think a lot of possibilities exist.

HallofFrank

To be clear, I agree with you—they should be able to trade him for something. I was only saying I don’t want the Sox to pick up the option because they feel they have to save face for the Madrigal trade. They should only do it if the market is there.

Joist

The only way this makes sense is if you meant “a player with 5-8 mil of excess value” on their deal. It’s not just about payroll impact – this isn’t the NBA where salary cap hits have to match. Otherwise why would a team give up a relatively cheap player AND take on a likely overpaid reliever?

AshnodsCoupon

Ah hell, you had to remind us about the CBA situation, Jim? 🙁 lol

Root Cause

Let Kimbrell go or trade him, I don’t care- just get rid of him.

Fill in 2 or 3 holes this winter and let’s see how the young studs mature. Get Vaughn some training in RF. I can live with that if they spend the money wisely elsewhere.

calcetinesblancos

Man, if they get a real RF who doesn’t need a platoon, so many other things get a lot easier.

andyfaust

Like, I dunno, Bryce Harper?

texag10

Harper for Kimbrel, make it happen

Joliet Orange Sox

I’d take Harper for Kimbrel only if the Phillies picked up part of Harper’s salary.

andyfaust

Wow, you’re serious? I would make this trade without hesitation. I only mentioned Harper as a joke. There is probably some dead money near the end of the contract but perhaps not as much as you think. I’m sure Philly is still quite pleased with this signing going forward, in spite of it’s length. Perennial MVP candidates don’t grow on trees.

Joliet Orange Sox

I was very much joking. I was doubling down on the previous comment of “Harper for Kimbrel, make it happen” which I took to also be a joke (it was, wasn’t it?). I thought I was far enough out there with my comment that it was not necessary to indicate I was joking.

andyfaust

sorry. missed the joke. don’t give up on me.

“Now Sam, I know I’m not the smartest guy and I don’t always get people’s jokes, but I make up for it sometimes because I get jokes that no one else gets!” – Woody Boyd, Cheers

Foulkelore

Yeah, to anyone who didn’t follow the numbers he put up this year … best not to look at them. No, really, don’t do that to yourself. Fine, don’t listen to me.

To Err is Herrmann

How does a team “fix” a closer who can’t maintain velocity and apparently does not have the pitching chops to offset it? Tuesday he was throwing pitches over people’s heads and then twice in a row in the dirt. I am sure there is a chump out there or maybe a team could hope with proper usage they could get a good half-season out of him then trade him, but no serious contender should pin their hopes on this guy. I would hate to see the White Sox throw good money after bad, but I guess Kimbrel has value as an flippable asset but only if he opens 2022 lights-out. Kimbrel is a gamble with your money. But I am sure with the great many incompetent organizations in baseball we could find a chump.

texag10

Relief pitchers are volatile and go through rough patches, especially when they are headcases like Kimbrel seems to be. I can easily see a team wanting Kimbrel to be their closer with the express belief that we screwed him up by never having him close. And lucky for us, TLR never used him in a true Closer situation to dispel that notion.

vanillablue

If Kimbrel starts the season on the Sox’ active roster, the offseason will have been a failure.

Right_Engel

Looking at the Sox payroll (actual, not AAV) for this offseason, there’s essentially already ~$150M on the books:
–$124M guaranteed contracts
–$13M (estimate) for surefire arb tenders (Giolito, Engel, Lopez)
–$1-2M in buyouts
–$11M (FG estimate) if the rest of the roster were at current-CBA league minimum (just to give a floor for the cost of those spots)

That figure doesn’t include:
–$16M option for Kimbrel
–$6M option for Cesar
–$6M for other arb-eligible guys (Marshall, Fry, Cordero, Goodwin)
–$18.4M qualifying offer for Rodón

This year’s payroll finished at $137-140M, and even that was high by JR standards. Increased revenues and a little playoff money help, but realistically, gambling on Kimbrel (to either rebound or develop an offseason trade market) isn’t a luxury afforded by the Sox budget. If Hahn can line up a worthwhile trade before exercising the option, then by all means. He seems to be getting the word out. Otherwise, cut bait for $1M and move forward without the lingering constraint of needing to trade Kimbrel.

HallofFrank

Oof, that is tough to see.

I guess one positive is that, if JR was going to push the chips in, from a business perspective next year would be the year. The best position to get a return on the investment, but there’s money coming off the books the year after (and the year after that), so you don’t commit yourself to the high payroll long-term.

As Cirensica

But the White Sox “saved” money in the tanking years. Money we were told will be spent.

As Cirensica

PauliePaulie

Was there an actual TLR to the Cards rumor, or is this how JR uses Bob to try to get some of the stink off?

As Cirensica

Maybe the Cardinals have a Jhan Marinez somewhere around in the minors?

metasox

Prob nothing more than that St. Louis fired its manager

calcetinesblancos

Can’t Bob let us dream for a day or two?

Root Cause

Like I said last week, JR will never fire him and he may never quit. Attrition at its worst.

Trooper Galactus

Picking up Kimbrel’s option with the intent to trade him is just plain nuts. What are you going to get in return that is even worth bothering with the risk? How good would he have to be in order to justify spending $30 million on two relievers, especially given their committed payroll for 2022 already? And how likely is he to be that good?

Hahn made assumptions about being able to trade Viciedo and Avi Garcia before. I would hope he wouldn’t make a similar mistake with Kimbrel.

jhomeslice

Spot on comment. Yet they will pick up his option anyway, and have to eat half his salary just to trade him for a mediocre prospect, because it would be the Sox thing to do.