A really interesting read over at ESPN from Jesse Rogers on the nitty gritty of how the crosstown trade for Craig Kimbrel came together between teams that historically don’t make major trades, and might have otherwise had some awkwardness given how the last major crosstown trade turned out.
You can read the piece on how all the talks happened between Jed Hoyer and Rick Hahn about the bullpen – going back to July 9 – and how they got closer and closer to a Craig Kimbrel deal. What I found most interesting was the reveal that Kimbrel and Madrigal were basically on the table for a while (we never heard a peep), but it was actually the other reliever in the deal that clinched it:
But the deal wasn’t done yet. When the White Sox traded pitcher Jose Quintana to the Cubs for prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease in 2017, Theo Epstein talked then of having to pay a ‘tax’ to do business across town.
Now the roles were reversed. The Sox had a tax to getting Kimbrel because he isn’t necessarily a two-month rental since he has a team option for next year. So on deadline day, the teams agreed upon reliever Codi Heuer in addition to Madrigal.
The Cubs, as you’ll recall, were still talking to at least the Rays about Kimbrel on deadline day, but it looks like it’s emerging that Hoyer wanted Madrigal all along (big bet there, and he’s gotta be right!), and so he was squeezing on that final day for one more piece. That piece was Heuer, a breakout setup reliever in 2020 who had taken a step back in 2021, but who had only just turned 25 and had excellent stuff. And when it comes to this Cubs front office wanting to target a particular relief pitcher, I definitely give them lots of leeway, because they’ve been right so dang often.
As for Heuer, there are a couple great reads on what he brings to the Cubs, and how the team is trying to maximize his value going forward:
Tommy Hottovy said the Cubs had some ideas to work with Codi Heuer. When he showed up, he was all for any suggestions. First up: fixing a sinker that’s gotten hammered this year. And as the Cubs suspected, he’s not actually throwing a true sinker. https://t.co/iauCgZIWLT
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) August 6, 2021
Lance Lynn, asked if he had a minute to answer a couple questions about Codi Heuer, flashed a wry smile.
“If it were anyone else, I’d say no,” he said.
Lynn scaled the dugout stairs to talk about the 25-year-old who the Sox had traded to the Cubs.https://t.co/LNAYSh6GQB
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) August 9, 2021
I’ll be watching the two-seam work carefully in the months ahead, because Heuer got a whopping 50.0% groundball rate in his rookie breakout with the White Sox (to go with a very nice strikeout rate of 27.2%). This year, while his walk rate has dropped to an impressively low level (6.7%), the strikeouts have faded (22.3%) and the groundball rate is a much more pedestrian 43.9%. Again, the Cubs have had a lot of success with command relievers who get a lot of groundballs, even if not elite strikeout artists, so all the more reason for optimism.
The Cubs wanted Heuer, a big league reliever, to clinch the trade for their most valuable trade asset in July, rather than a grab bag of additional prospects. It was an indication that the Cubs don’t intend to be rebuilding for years, and if it’s going to work out, Madrigal and Heuer will have to play big parts.