The reign of the Cubs bullpen’s Big 3 lasted just a few months. And now two of the three are headed across town.
On Friday, the Cubs traded closer Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox. News of the deal for the last, and most sought after, member of the Cubs reliver trio became official less than two hours before the trade deadline. The Cubs receive second baseman Nick Madrigal and pitcher Codi Heuer from the Sox.
“I’ve been traded before,” Kimbrel said over the All-Star break. “I’ve been traded on Opening Day. So, if something does happen and I am having to move in the middle of the year, I’ve done it before. Obviously, family dynamics are a little different.”
When the Braves traded Kimbrel to the Padres in April 2015, he didn’t have a young daughter, as he does now.
“But that’s what we sign up for,” Kimbrel said.
As former Cubs setup man Ryan Tepera noted when he was traded to the White Sox on Thursday, there are logistical advantaged to staying in the same city.
Kimbrel ends his Cubs tenure on a high note. He’s allowed just two earned runs all season for an MLB-leading 0.49 ERA.
Kimbrel’s dominance this season tells the story of a drastic turnaround over the eight-time All-Star’s time in Chicago. In 2019, after his free agency stretched into June, and while he battled injury, Kimbrel’s ERA ballooned to 6.53.
His second season with the Cubs came in the middle of a pandemic. Forfeiting the closer role last year, Kimbrel addressed some mechanical issues at the beginning of the shortened season. Then he didn’t allow a run in the month of September. This season, he’s proven that his late-2020 bounce-back was no fluke.
Just as Cubs fans started to get used to this version of Kimbrel, the version that sparked Hall of Fame talk far too early in his career for his liking, Kimbrel’s success became trade value in the Cubs’ deadline selloff.
The Cubs have split up their three-headed relief monster over the course of five days. First, they traded their setup men: Andrew Chafin to the A’s and Tepera to the White Sox.
"Tep, Chafe and Kimbrel were the guys that we got to, to win baseball games," Ross said after Tepera’s trade. "And when you lose two of those three guys, it makes it difficult.”
Now, they’ve lost all three.