The Dodgers swung a trade with the White Sox for closer Craig Kimbrel on the penultimate day of camp in Arizona, which made it extra convenient for Kimbrel and outfielder AJ Pollock, who only had to walk across to the other side of Camelback Ranch.
What the Dodgers get is a defined closer in the wake of Kenley Jansen leaving, a role Kimbrel was happy to resume after a setup role in the stacked Chicago bullpen.
“I don’t think I can be any happier. You come over to a team like this that already expects to win,” Kimbrel said on Friday. “It will be nice to come in and just do my job. It feels really nice.”
"I don't think I can be any happier. You come over to a team like this that already expects to win... It feels really nice." Newest member of the #Dodgers, Craig Kimbrel on the trade and his excitement to join the Boys in Blue. pic.twitter.com/TVln6SzlhS— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) April 1, 2022
Kimbrel’s 2021 was an odd one, split between the north and south sides of Chicago. With the Cubs, Kimbrel was dominant in his familiar role of closer, saving 23 games and he finished off a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium on June 24, even if he didn’t realize it at the time.
But after getting traded to the White Sox on July 30, with fellow All-Star closer Liam Hendriks already in place, Kimbrel was reduced to a setup role. His numbers suffered, and he blew more saves in two months with the White Sox (three) than he did in four months with the Cubs (two).
“I’ll take the ball in the seventh, eighth, or ninth, it doesn’t matter. I’m still going out there giving the same effort,” Kimbrel said. “Obviously, the numbers have shown that its a little different, but it has nothing to do with my mentality going into the game or anything like that.”
Kimbrel had a 4.42 ERA in the eighth inning in 2021 compared to just 0.99 in the ninth. His career numbers aren’t as pronounced, but his ninth-inning ERA is just 2.01 compared to 3.21 in the eighth, with 11 times as many innings in the former.
“Over the years you get used to doing something over and over and over again, I guess you can say there’s comfort there,” he said. “But there’s still adrenaline and excitement, all those things — that doesn’t only come in the ninth inning. It comes at any point you’re given the ball.”
- Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes, from Bill Plunkett’s trade recap in the Orange County Register: “It was an opportunity for us to strengthen our pitching and take from an area that we felt had a little bit more depth.”
- More Gomes, from Juan Toribio at MLB.com: “The expectation is that Craig is gonna come in and take the ninth ... And the group that we currently have will be moved around as we’ve done in the past.”
- Kimbrel, the active major league leader with 372 career saves, on his role as Dodgers closer, from Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic: “I’m going to be able to put some shoes on that I know that fit.”
- Jack Harris at the Los Angeles Times breaks down the ripple effects of the Kimbrel-Pollock trade, including how Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux will likely see ample time in left field.
- James Fegan at The Athletic looks at the trade from the Chicago side, including this description of Kimbrel’s south side tenure: “During his time in camp, Kimbrel struck the same professional tone about his unideal assignment that he kept throughout his short White Sox stint, in keeping with the conduct that has earned him universal praise from teammates and coaches.”
- Bradford Doolittle at ESPN graded the trade for both sides, noting the rarity of two playoff favorites making a veteran one-for-one trade like this.