Craig Kimbrel trade: Dodgers send AJ Pollock to Chicago for All-Star closer


The Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have hooked up for a significant trade one week before Opening Day. The ChiSox sent closer Craig Kimbrel to the Dodgers for outfielder AJ Pollock, the teams announced. Jeff Passan says there is no money involved, so it’s a straight one-for-one trade.

Both teams are trading from an area of depth to address a weakness. The Dodgers had more everyday caliber position players than starting lineup spots, but needed to replace Kenley Jansen in the bullpen. The White Sox have a very deep bullpen but a need in right field. It is a good old fashioned baseball trade involving two above-average big leaguers.

Last season, Kimbrel, now 33, was an All-Star with the Chicago Cubs, though he struggled with the White Sox after coming over at the trade deadline, making it likely Chicago would move him this offseason. With the Dodgers, he can move back into the closer’s role, allowing manager Dave Roberts to use Blake Treinen as a fireman earlier in the game.

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The trade also opens a spot for Gavin Lux, who was pushed to the bench by the Freddie Freeman signing. Lux did play some left field last season, or the Dodgers can put Chris Taylor in the outfield and Lux at second. Los Angeles could go out and sign Michael Conforto to replace Pollock, though Conforto is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury.

The White Sox have had an opening in right field really since 2020, though Adam Engel and Leury García filled in capably last year. Andrew Vaughn recently suffered a hip injury and may miss Opening Day, potentially taking him out of the mix, and recent pickup Adam Haseley is a depth option more than an everyday player. With Pollock, the ChiSox lineup figures to look something like this:

  1. SS Tim Anderson
  2. CF Luis Robert
  3. 1B José Abreu
  4. C Yasmani Grandal
  5. LF Eloy Jiménez
  6. 3B Yoan Moncada
  7. RF AJ Pollock
  8. DH Gavin Sheets
  9. 2B Josh Harrison

Pollock, 34, quietly finished third in the National League with 16 home runs during the shortened 2020 season. He missed time with injuries last season but still slugged 21 home runs in 117 games. Injuries have been an issue at times, though the White Sox could plug Engel, García, or Vaughn into the lineup on occasion to give Pollock a breather.

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Chicago’s bullpen remains loaded without Kimbrel. Free agent addition Kendall Graveman and holdover Aaron Bummer will get the ball to closer Liam Hendriks. It should be noted hard-throwing lefty Garrett Crochet exited Thursday’s game with the trainer and is heading for further evaluation. He is expected to be a key part of manager Tony La Russa’s relief crew in 2022.

Kimbrel and Pollock are both entering the final guaranteed season on their contract, though Pollock has a player option for 2023. Kimbrel will earn $16 million this year. Pollock will earn $10 million this year with a $5 million buyout of the $10 million player option, so the guaranteed money is close to a wash.

The Dodgers and White Sox both begin their regular seasons on April 8 rather than April 7. The Dodgers will be on the road to take on the Rockies. The White Sox open on the road against the Tigers.



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