Crosstown: How Cubs, Sox swapped sides in Kimbrel trade


Craig Kimbrel had a rough start to trade deadline day, but not for the reason that first comes to mind.

"Well, my driver was going a little bit right, and I kept pulling my short iron left,” Kimbrel said. “And I three-putted on a couple holes. That's about how my morning went."

As Kimbrel zig-zagged his way across the golf course, reports of trade suitors in the double digits swirled. Not long after he was done with the round, the Cubs and White Sox had hashed out the final details of a trade that would send Kimbrel to the South Side for reliver Codi Heuer and second baseman Nick Madrigal.

Friday marked a week from the trade. Kimbrel took the mound at Wrigley Field in White Sox colors for the first time, in his new team’s 8-6 extra-innings win. He gave up a game-tying home run to Cubs infielder Andrew Romine in the eighth inning of the crosstown series opener. Those were the first runs Kimbrel had allowed since a trade that had been weeks in the making.

A couple weeks before the deadline, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams discussed a hypothetical scenario.

If the White Sox could acquire just one of the players expected to be traded, who would they choose?


“He and I had the same answer,” Hahn told White Sox reporters last week.

Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel.

RELATED: Kimbrel in Sox uni underlines diverging path from Cubs

The Cubs and White Sox already had a good trade relationship in place. But negotiating a Kimbrel trade meant swapping roles from an infamous crosstown deal four years ago.

When the White Sox traded José Quintana in 2017, they were the ones acquiring young talent (including right-hander Dylan Cease and leftfielder Eloy Jimenez) with the future in mind, and the Cubs were looking for an impact pitcher to add to a playoff-bound team.

Not this time around.

“I look forward to be on that side again,” Hoyer said this week in Denver. “I wish we were on that side this year. It's a lot more gratifying to be on the side that’s picking out the player that they want to help them win the World Series than it is to be on our side.

“But I think that you want to be on a side, right? You want to be buying, or you want to be selling. I was very aware this deadline of getting caught in the middle.”

The Cubs committed to selling, trading away nine players between the All-Star Game and the July 30 deadline.

They got one deal done with the White Sox the day before the deadline, sending reliever Ryan Tepera to the South Side for pitching prospect Bailey Horn. But Kimbrel’s market was competitive and extended into the final day.

“We were aggressive, and we fought like hell to make it lighter in the end,” Hahn told White Sox reporters, “but when it came time to make a decision, we decided to meet the price.”

Hahn made two phone calls he said he “didn’t necessarily anticipate making” Friday morning, breaking the news to Madrigal and Heuer that they’d been traded to the Cubs.

“Rick is really, really good to deal with,” Hoyer said. “Very straightforward. We had a lot of very honest conversations over the two weeks. … I give them a ton of credit for being decisive and knowing exactly what they wanted.”

In the days after the trade, Kimbrel has talked about how thrilled he is to be part of a contending team and a “special” group of players. But his initial excitement, after a morning on the golf course, had less to do with baseball and everything to do with his wife and young daughter.


“I didn't have to move,” Kimbrel said of his reaction. “I didn't have to worry about relocating my family and learning a new routine. Everything on the home front's going to be the same. That's very exciting and huge. It's going to be a big part of making this transition a lot easier."

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