It was a massive move at the time, as Kimbrel was widely regarded as one of the top bullpen arms in the league when the deal went down.
Unfortunately, the righty’s time with the White Sox in 2021 did not pan out at all.
He pitched to a 5.09 ERA over 24 regular-season appearances after the trade, and in the playoffs, he gave up three runs over two total innings of work.
By almost every measure, the eight-time All-Star was a net negative for the White Sox in 2021.
ANDREW ROMINE TIES THE GAME WITH A 3-RUN HOME RUN OFF OF KIMBREL! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/uEjQCIK0Iz
— Cubs Zone ™️ (@CubsZone) August 6, 2021
It was a stunning development, as he posted a tiny ERA of 0.49 over 39 appearances with the Chicago Cubs prior to the trade deadline.
After the White Sox’s season ended, fans were left feeling like it was a mistake to acquire Kimbrel.
But here’s the catch: His time with the team isn’t over yet.
When the White Sox traded for him, he was more than just a rental.
His contract came with a club option for the 2022 season.
On Saturday, the organization decided to exercise that option.
The decision opens up two interesting possibilities.
Here they are.
Option No. 1: Trade Kimbrel If There’s A Strong Market For Him
Even after Kimbrel’s miserable second half of the 2021 season, the White Sox were always expected to pick up his option for 2022.
That’s because, at worst, the team can trade him away.
The 33-year-old is likely still perceived as a positive asset on the trade market, although it’s fair to assume that his stock has dipped in recent months.
The whole league saw what he’s capable of in the first half of the 2021 season.
That should be enough to keep his value fairly high.
The White Sox should explore the market for Kimbrel and see if a team is willing to make a handsome offer for the veteran.
If the right deal comes along, Chicago shouldn’t hesitate to take it.
Option No. 2: Keep Kimbrel Around For 2022, But With A Catch
Of course, the White Sox could certainly keep Kimbrel around.
The team’s bullpen would get a huge boost if he were to regain his footing and pitch like a superstar again.
But if that’s going to happen, Chicago needs to do its part.
Here’s what that might look like: switching Kimbrel back to a closing role.
Throughout his entire career, he has been at his best in the ninth inning.
When he came over to the White Sox, he got taken out of that role, and it seemed to change everything for him (which is common with closers).
Ahhh yes Kimbrel remains terrible in non-save situations
— John Karalis 🇬🇷 (@RedsArmy_John) October 28, 2018
Here’s a look at how he performed in 2021 depending on the inning:
- 7th inning: 4.50 ERA
- 8th inning: 4.42 ERA
- 9th inning: 0.99 ERA
Pretty easy to spot a trend there.
Going forward, if the White Sox want to see Kimbrel pitch like the elite reliever they thought they were getting several months ago, then they’d be wise to put him in a position to succeed.
At the very least, the team should experiment with giving him the closing role.