What's better than one of the game's best closers?
How about two of the game's best closers?
After upgrading their bullpen in a Crosstown trade for Ryan Tepera on Thursday, the Chicago White Sox went back to their intracity rivals Friday and swung another deal with the Chicago Cubs on Friday, this time landing the North Side closer, Craig Kimbrel, to further strengthen their area of biggest need.
The White Sox parted with second baseman Nick Madrigal, currently out for the year after tearing his hamstring, and bullpen arm Codi Heuer in exchange for Kimbrel, whose contract contains a club option for the 2022 season.
Kimbrel, a National League All Star this season, figures to slot in right alongside American League All-Star closer Liam Hendriks to form one of the more menacing back ends in baseball. That's one heck of a 1-2 punch and could be one of the team's greatest strong points come October.
The White Sox bullpen, prior to the last couple days, was well stocked with talented arms but ones that, for the most part, failed to live up to their sky-high preseason expectations to this point. Aside from Hendriks and Michael Kopech, their wasn't much consistency from what was expected to be one of the best bullpens in the league.
But adding Tepera and Kimbrel from the Cubs has swung things dramatically, the White Sox doing the work they needed to do at the deadline to bolster what had been the biggest need on the roster.
"There's a lot of things I wouldn't be surprised (by at the trade deadline)," Hendriks said earlier this month. "There are a number of areas we can go. I still think our bullpen is good enough where we are at, and if we get a couple of guys just turned around to what they've done in the past, we'll be fine.
"But in saying that, I wouldn't be opposed to another veteran piece that's going to be a little bit of a different personality than I am. Going to be better for the young kids who show less emotion or (are) more stoic."
Kimbrel has bounced back from a rough start to his Cubs tenure in a big way this season, following up two years with a combined 6.00 ERA to post a microscopic 0.49 ERA in his 39 appearances in 2021. He's saved 23 games, tied for the fourth most in baseball. Hendriks ranks second with 25 saves.
In addition to making a huge splash with the Kimbrel acquisition, the White Sox are welcoming back their injured middle-of-the-order hitters, with Eloy Jiménez already back and Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal on their way back, too. All told, it will be a dramatically different looking White Sox team once everyone is healthy and all the trade acquisitions are added into the mix.
The White Sox were a legitimate World Series contender prior to this week. Thanks to the infusion of reinforcements, their championship chances look better than ever.