Sox pick up Kimbrel's option, decline César's

November 6th, 2021

CHICAGO -- The White Sox exercised the $16 million club option on the contract of right-handed reliever Craig Kimbrel for the 2022 season, while declining the $6 million club option on second baseman César Hernández, as announced Saturday afternoon. There was no buyout involved with Hernández.

Kimbrel, 33, was one of the top closers in the game when acquired from the Cubs at the 2021 Trade Deadline, giving the White Sox the look of a loaded, playoff-ready bullpen along with closer Liam Hendriks, Aaron Bummer, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet and fellow Cubs acquisition Ryan Tepera. But after posting a 0.49 ERA over 39 games with the Cubs, striking out 64 and allowing 13 hits and 13 walks in 36 2/3 innings, Kimbrel struggled in a non-closing role with the White Sox.

His ERA finished at 5.09 in 24 games, along with a 9.00 ERA over three playoff games. The White Sox traded starting second baseman Nick Madrigal and young reliever Codi Heuer for Kimbrel, although Madrigal was out for the season upon undergoing surgery for a right hamstring tear.

Hernández, 31, was picked up from Cleveland the day before the Trade Deadline and finished the season with a career-high 21 home runs. Only three of those home runs came with the White Sox, where Hernández slashed .232/.309/.299 over 53 games and 217 plate appearances.

Despite these moves not panning out, general manager Rick Hahn had no regrets about trying to enhance his American League Central champions through in-season deals.

“Our acquisitions at the Deadline, Tepera, Kimbrel, César Hernández, were absolutely the right moves to make on a team that had World Series aspirations and the needs that we had,” Hahn said. “We don't regret being aggressive, we don't regret addressing what we felt were going to be in impactful ways our clear needs at the time. Obviously, it didn't work out because those moves were made with the goal of winning the World Series.

“You heard me talk over the course of the few months leading up, in August and September when you'd ask me about an individual's performance that we acquired, that this was going on or that was going on, but really it was about October. So if you judge it from the prism of whether it worked or not, it didn't work at the time, for the '21 season. But if I look at it from the perspective of the decisions at the time they were made, they were the right decisions.”

Hahn looks forward to having a realistic chance of winning the World Series at the Deadline once again and operating in the same manner by addressing the primary needs identified on the team.

“From a personal level, yeah, it hurts, you know? You want it to work out,” Hahn said. “That's why we do this, is to win championships. You want to feel like you're doing everything in your power to facilitate that, and when it doesn't work, you feel that.

“Those are things that stick with you. But in the end, when you look at it from the prism of, 'Was it the right thing to do and would we do it again?' Absolutely.”

A trade involving Kimbrel still could be possible, paired with a team looking for a closer. The 12-year veteran and eight-time All-Star has 372 career saves, including 24 in 2021 (23 with the Cubs), ranking him ninth on the AL/NL all-time list. Hahn did not address any club option during his 45-minute Zoom Friday with the decisions not yet announced, nor did he discuss any possible future role for Kimbrel.

Danny Mendick and Romy Gonzalez are second-base options on the White Sox 40-man roster, while Jake Burger (five games at Triple-A Charlotte) and Andrew Vaughn (one start with the White Sox) both had very limited experience at the position in 2021. But the White Sox almost certainly will look to fill second from an outside move.