For years, it was taboo to even CONSIDER a significant trade between the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. Although the teams do not compete directly in the standings, the reality of being in one city – covered by the same media, and with a rivalry in certain pockets of the fan base – meant that a major trade that went really well for one side and really poorly for the other would linger for years. The teams just didn’t want to wear it.
Then, with the Cubs in need of a controlled starting pitcher and with a deep farm system, the Epstein-Hoyer front office took a leap in trading top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease for Jose Quintana. Maybe that signaled a shift in the way the organizations would operate in respect to each other – the Cubs front office indicated that they just wanted to make the best deals possible, and didn’t fear any long-term recriminations from the fans or the media if things went, well, how they went. While Quintana was better and more important for the Cubs in 2017 than some folks want to remember, he definitely wasn’t the guy he was with the White Sox, and it was generally a disappointing tenure. Meanwhile, Jimenez finished up his development as a game-changing bat, and Cease is emerging as a rotation mainstay on a playoff contender.
Against that backdrop, it was mildly surprising to see the teams get together once again on a major trade this deadline. When Michael texted me that Kimbrel was headed to the White Sox – news breaker! – it definitely took me an extra second to be like, “Are you REALLY sure?”
Although my primary reason for thinking the Cubs and White Sox just wouldn’t match up on a Kimbrel deal was related to the organizational pieces in trade, there was also always that question about how do these teams get together on a deal across town. To that second part, it’s pretty clear now that nobody has any concerns whatsoever on that front, so as long as it’s Hoyer, Rick Hahn, and Kenny Williams at the helms, you can safely assume any and all trade possibilities are on the table. Not a shock, given Quintana, but now we can pretty much say it’s confirmed.
But what about that other part? The part where it just seemed impossible that the White Sox could have the right pieces to acquire Kimbrel without going onto their big league roster, which surely they weren’t going to do in a competitive year?
Well, that’s the part where I whiffed, because I just didn’t see Nick Madrigal coming. Out for the year with a hamstring injury, after having really started to break out, Madrigal just wasn’t even on my radar as a guy the Cubs would target or the White Sox would part with. I still sense that I’m a bigger Madrigal fan than most – I just like guys who have REALLY EXTREME skillsets, even if they come with other deficiencies – and I thought he was a clear core piece for the White Sox.
More from Rick Hahn on how the deal came together, via the Daily Herald:
“Obviously, [Craig Kimbrel’s] resume speaks for itself,” Hahn said. “As I discussed with Craig, a few weeks ago (White Sox VP) Kenny (Williams) and I asked each other, of all the players expected to be moved, let’s assume we could only acquire one, who would it be? And he and I had the same answer and that was the player we acquired today.”
The Cubs paid a hefty price to get Quintana in July of 2017, and the Sox had to move injured second baseman Nick Madrigal — the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 draft — and relief pitcher Codi Heuer to get Kimbrel.
“Parting with Nick Madrigal is not easy. Parting with Codi Heuer is not easy.” Hahn said. “Jed will tell you how much we fought on that. In the end, those were both key pieces from the Cubs’ perspective in order to get the deal done. And we understood going into this process that the only way we were going to secure (Kimbrel) was having the clear best offer. In the end, that was the cost.”
We don’t know about the other offers yet on Kimbrel besides the combo Kimbrel-Bryant discussion with the Rays (which did NOT look great for the Cubs), so we can’t yet compare what else the Cubs could’ve gotten (an all prospect package, for example), but it’s pretty hard for me not to see this as a big get for the Cubs. Do you worry a little about Madrigal’s defense and speed coming back from the hamstring injury? Sure. Do you worry that the modest power increase from earlier this year was a blip and he actually maxes out as a really weird .310/.330/.350 guy? Sure. But having already shown productivity in the big leagues in his early-20s, and having been a top four pick just three years ago, you weren’t going to find a better “prospect” out there in a Kimbrel deal.
And that’s not to mention Heuer, who has setup-man (or more) upside, and is nearly four years younger than Rowan Wick (just for an example to provide context).
So, to sum up how the Cubs and White Sox got together on another major trade: neither side seemed concerned about a crosstown trade, and the White Sox very likely had the clear best offer for a guy they desperately wanted. Simple as that.