"We view him as a potentially impactful reliever as he's been for the vast majority of his career," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday on Day 1 of the GM meetings in Southern California. "We're not alone in that opinion.
"What we have to figure out is if it makes the most sense to have Craig in a White Sox uniform going forward or is there a better use of that spot and him perhaps via trade."
Kimbrel, 33, stands ninth all-time with 372 career saves but was asked to pitch in the eighth inning for the White Sox after he was acquired in a midseason trade with the crosstown Cubs. The move backfired as Kimbrel's ERA ballooned from 0.49 with the Cubs to 5.09 with the White Sox.
"It didn't work out the way we wanted last year so perhaps there's a better use of his skills than how we were doing it," Hahn said. "So we have to reconsider his usage with us versus a potential trade."
The White Sox had an all-star closer in Liam Hendriks when they gave up injured second baseman Nick Madrigal along with reliever Codi Heuer to get Kimbrel at the end of July. At the time, Kimbrel said he had no problem pitching in the eighth inning and blamed his struggles on mechanical issues.
Hahn said Kimbrel continues to express the desire to do what's best for the team. However, his return to the White Sox is in doubt and he's more than likely to pitch back in the ninth inning for another team in 2022.
"He's as good as gone," one rival executive said Tuesday.
Hahn admitted Kimbrel's performance wasn't great but said he doesn't regret the decision to trade for him. White Sox brass decided he was the best reliever on the market, and they went out and got him.
"I don't know if we're ever going to have an exact answer why he didn't work out over those eight weeks but certainly if we're going to include him in our plans for the future we have to find a way to maximize his abilities," he said. "It's easy to look at the results and work your way backwards for an explanation and say, 'Well the role wasn't what he was used to, so it must be the role.' He approached it the same way he would approach closing opportunities."
If, by chance, the White Sox don't move him, Hahn is confident the White Sox will get a team-first player in whatever role they put him in.
"I've had multiple conversations with him since the season ended," Hahn said. "He wants to win."