The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox swapped veteran outfielder AJ Pollock and veteran closer Craig Kimbrel on Friday, a rare one-for-one trade -- with no money exchanged -- that cleared up uncertainties for two championship contenders.
From the Dodgers' perspective, the deal frees up more playing time for the young, promising Gavin Lux, who was left without a defined role in the wake of the Freddie Freeman signing. Kimbrel, meanwhile, would slot in as the closer, allowing Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to be more flexible with his usage of Blake Treinen.
The White Sox had been looking to trade Kimbrel ever since exercising their $16 million option on him for 2022, given that Liam Hendriks is entrenched as their closer. Their bullpen depth -- featuring Aaron Bummer and veteran additions Kendall Graveman and Joe Kelly -- allowed them to trade Kimbrel in an effort to plug a hole in their outfield. But the Kimbrel trade came on the same day that one of their best relievers, lefty Garrett Crochet, learned he'll likely require season-ending elbow surgery.
Pollock, who will make $10 million in 2022 and carries a $10 million player option for 2023, will likely slide in as the White Sox right fielder, prompting Eloy Jimenez to remain in left and Andrew Vaughn to slot in as the designated hitter, further solidifying what was already a potent lineup. The left-handed-hitting Gavin Sheets also figures to be in the mix, with Chicago possibly rotating all four of those players through three spots.
The Dodgers checked in on Kimbrel before last summer's trade deadline but were hesitant to acquire him given the presence of Kenley Jansen. Kimbrel now fills the ninth-inning void that was left when Jansen signed with the Atlanta Braves, allowing the rest of their relievers to move back a spot. Ahead of Kimbrel, the Dodgers can deploy Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, Daniel Hudson, Alex Vesia and Victor Gonzalez, with the likes of Tommy Kahnle, Phil Bickford and Dustin May slated to become available at various points throughout the season.
Kimbrel, 33, has been among the best closers in the sport for the better part of a decade, compiling 371 saves and a 2.24 ERA from 2011 to 2021. After struggling with the Chicago Cubs from 2019 to 2020, Kimbrel dominated through the first four months of 2021, allowing only two earned runs and striking out 64 batters in 36⅔ innings. In a non-closing role with the White Sox, however, Kimbrel's ERA ballooned to 5.09 in 24 regular-season appearances.
Pollock, 34, batted .282/.337/.519 with 52 home runs and 150 RBIs in 258 games for the Dodgers from 2019 to 2021. The former All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner caught some criticism for his early postseason struggles, but he turned that around with a .933 OPS in October 2021.
In a separate move, the White Sox agreed to terms on a one-year, $7.45 million contract with right-hander Lucas Giolito, avoiding arbitration. Giolito, 26, went 11-9 with a 3.53 ERA in 31 starts last season, his fifth with Chicago.