Dodgers acquire Craig Kimbrel from White Sox for A.J. Pollock, which makes both sides happy

It’s April Fools’ Day, so there would naturally be some skepticism about this headline. But, it’s legit.

Yep. The Dodgers have acquired Craig Kimbrel from the White Sox for AJ Pollock.

It’s a bit of a surprising trade on the surface, but it also makes sense for both teams. The White Sox were in need of another outfielder (though Pollock is not a lefty), and after letting Kenley Jansen leave in free agency the Dodgers desired a proven closer that would allow them to move Blake Treinen around as necessary. They got what they wanted.

The money is almost a wash. Kimbrel is making $16 million this season, while Pollock is making $10 million this season and has a $10 million option for 2023, or a $5 million buyout.

Losing a productive player like Pollock has a chance to sting, as he’s put up a .282/.337/.519/.856 line in three years with the team and has been a solid regular (~4 WAR). However, with Chris Taylor freed up to play more left field (his best defensive position), it shouldn’t hurt that much, and the Dodgers are also showing confidence in Gavin Lux and betting that Cody Bellinger isn’t completely broken.

The question is more about the value of Kimbrel, who after 8+ years of being an elite reliever, went to the Cubs and was horrible over 36 innings in 2019-20, putting up a 6.00 ERA with a 6.29 FIP. He then bounced back to start 2021, arguably having a career year with a 0.49 ERA and a 1.10 FIP in 36.2 frames before being traded to the White Sox. In a setup role he went back to atrocious, with a 5.09 ERA and 4.56 FIP in 23 innings to close things out. So the Dodgers are definitely taking the bigger risk here, betting that Kimbrel’s late fade was an aberration and that he’s still something like an elite back-end pen arm.

Given the track record of the Dodgers it’s hard to argue with them if they believe, and if it works out as intended Kimbrel should provide with a boost in the playoffs when high-leverage relief arms are at a premium.

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Update

Your first look at Kimbrel in a Dodgers jersey.

Memories.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.