As our Michael Cerami first reported, the Chicago Cubs are trading Craig Kimbrel across town to the White Sox. Bob Nightengale reports that the return is second baseman Nick Madrigal and reliever Codi Heuer.
Madrigal, who sports a comically elite high-contact bat – to say it’s his carrying skill is an understatement – is out for the year recovering from a hamstring tear. The 24-year-old second baseman won’t hit arbitration until 2024, and has hit .317/.358/.406 (114 wRC+) over his 324 big league PAs. He’s struck out just 7.4% of the time, which, again, is his THING. He’s a line drive hitter who is just supremely good at that. If you want to imagine that he’s the most extreme opposite version of what the Cubs have been missing, this is it. I like him a lot, but I do question how long this skill can carry him as a big league hitter, given his size. His defense at second base rates out as “fine, not great.”
The Cubs are clearly making a huge bet that high-contact, line-drive guys are going to become increasingly valuable in whatever version of the baseball world is coming (seems like a good bet).
Heuer, 25, is a controlled reliever who was exceptional last year in the shortened season, but who has rough results this year (but better peripherals). Looks like a scouting play at first blush, but it’s also a guy who slots right in at the big league level.
In other words, the Cubs completely and wholly focused on near-term pieces in the trade for their most valuable trade chip. I’m shocked by that. I don’t hate it, because I want to see the Cubs compete in 2022, but I just thought they were going to go for top tier prospect value. I’m torn. Because again, I do like Madrigal (more than most?), and I think the Cubs are right about the way the game is going to change with rules that will emphasize the value of balls in play.
We will have SO MUCH MORE on this in the days and weeks ahead. It’s a shocking return. We knew Kimbrel was going to be traded at the height of his value, but for Madrigal and a scouting play reliever? Did not see that coming. I’m intrigued, but nervous?
On to the next trade and rumor, and circling back to this when the picture is more complete.