MLB Trade Breakdown: White Sox and Dodgers Make a Big Swapby Carter LaCorte April 2, 2022 1 comment
With Opening Day less than a week away, we thought that the offseason was over. But, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have made a high-profiled swap, with closer Craig Kimbrel going west for outfielder AJ Pollock. This trade calls to mind when Kimbrel was dealt just before the 2015 season started from the Braves to the Padres. That deal separated him from Atlanta teammate Freddie Freeman, who is the other huge acquisition for the Dodgers this offseason.
It should be noted that both players are expensive and in the final year of their contract. However, the salary terms are canceled out by each other’s presence. There are no extra dollars swapping hands. We got an extremely rare swap of prominent and still productive veterans, with each fitting their new team better than their old.
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The Dodgers have had Kenley Jansen in the back of their bullpen since he had a 0.67 ERA in 25 games as a 22-year-old in 2010. Jansen left for Atlanta this month, signaling the need for a new head honcho. What better guy to get than the only other active player with more career saves? Kimbrel departed Boston after 2018 for the Cubs, where he struggled in small samples for the first two seasons. But, he was at the top of his game at the start of 2021.
Before a deadline day trade crosstown to the White Sox, Kimbrel had a 0.49 ERA with 64 strikeouts and a 0.71 WHIP in 36.2 innings. However, he was awful with his new team. Kimbrel allowed five home runs in 23 innings, bloating his ERA to 5.06 in the stint. A possible explanation was that he was moved out of the closing role with Liam Hendriks present.
On The Bright Side
It should be noted that while Kimbrel was not good after the trade, he still had 36 strikeouts in those 23 innings. And, his total season numbers are amazing. Combined between the two Chicago squads, he had a 2.26 ERA with 100 strikeouts, a 2.43 FIP, and a 2.2 fWAR in 59.2 innings pitched. His Statcast numbers were insane, with a .158 xBA, .236 xwOBA, and 2.32 xERA. The Dodgers would dream for that to be repeated, as it was Kimbrel’s fourth 100-strikeout season, and first since 2017.
Losing Pollock does hurt, but it also opens up a spot in a crowded lineup. With former top prospect Gavin Lux mostly blocked, he could move to the outfield, or play some designated hitter. Utility man Chris Taylor also has more room to play. It creates a small hole on the bench, but the Dodgers cleared up a glaring issue entering the season.
Filling in the Outfield
Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert will be in left and center for a long time. The problem this offseason was figuring out who plays right field. Tony La Russa seemed fine with Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets splitting time there, although both are truly first basemen. You could tell that the team was not entirely satisfied with that, as they brought in Adam Haseley from the Phillies in a depth move before now acquiring Pollock.
Pollock is 34 now, but he was overshadowed by his Dodger teammates in 2021, quietly having his best seasons since he broke out with a 6.8 fWAR in 2015. Last year, he appeared in 117 games, hitting 21 home runs with a .297 batting average, .891 OPS, and 137 wRC+, the latter two being career bests. He is an extremely welcomed addition to the White Sox lineup.
There were rumors that Chicago had been looking to move Kimbrel all offseason, as they have a very expensive bullpen. Former Dodger Joe Kelly and Kendall Graveman were signed to deals that were not cheap, and they will replace Kimbrel, who was not a good fit during his short stint with the south side. To get such a quality player in return while hitting net zero dollars exchanged is a great deal.
There is one big free agent yet to sign, which is Michael Conforto. The former Mets outfielder seemed like a perfect fit for the White Sox. He plays right field and is left-handed while the White Sox have a right-handed heavy lineup (which now includes Pollock). The word out there is that Conforto was waiting to rehab from a minor injury before continuing negotiations with teams. However, his suitors could be running thin. This trade certainly hurts his market.
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