Chicago White Sox: 2021 MLB Trade Deadline Grades
The Chicago White Sox have officially arrived. After bursting onto the scene in the shortened 2020 season with a surprise wild-card berth backed by a young hitting core, the South Side went full buying-mode at the 2021 trade deadline, as they acquired 2B Cesar Hernandez from the Cleveland Indians/Guardians, closer Craig Kimbrel from the Chicago Cubs, and reliever Ryan Tepera, also from the Cubs. Already the owners of a commanding 9.5 game lead atop the AL Central division, the White Sox elevated themselves from fringe title contenders with talent, to arguably AL pennant favorites with one of the most balanced rosters in baseball.
Though their season thus far has been great, the recent return of stud outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert gives the White Sox the potential to dominate down the stretch run of the regular season. Getting hot right before the start of the playoffs could be just what Chicago needs to win a World Series, which would be at least a year or two ahead of schedule for this young core. Amidst all of the excitement, let’s grade their deadline deals:
White Sox acquire RHP Ryan Tepera from Cubs in exchange for LHP Bailey Horn: A-
Seeing as the Sox already own some of the best top-end bullpen talent in the majors with guys like Michael Kopech and Liam Hendriks, it made sense to shore up their depth by adding Tepera. Tepera has a solid ERA of 3.00, a sub-1 WHIP at .844, and strikes out over a batter an inning, he’ll be a valuable stopgap down the stretch. Horn is a middling prospect with a 2.63 ERA in A-ball, though he struggled in High-A ball.
White Sox acquire 2B Cesar Hernandez from Indians/Guardians in exchange for LHP Connor Pilkington: A-
After 2B Nick Madrigal went down with a season-ending torn hamstring back in June, the White Sox became in dire need of a new second baseman in their otherwise spectacular infield. Cesar Hernandez isn’t the flashiest name in the game, but he offers the archetypal second-baseman package with Gold-Glove-winning defense and a low-strikeout, contact approach at the dish. Come October, when hard-throwing relievers and top-end starters are almost exclusively what hitters will see, contact and defense are what wins games. The move to acquire a very solid 2B without selling a top prospect is a savvy one for the White Sox.
White Sox acquire RHP Craig Kimbrel from Cubs in exchange for 2B Nick Madrigal and RHP Codi Heuer: A+
Every big winner at the trade deadline makes a splash move, and for the White Sox, this was the one. Though the Sox had to part ways with Madrigal, a top prospect at 2B, Craig Kimbrel is a bonafide fireman, with a pedigree consisting of 8 All-Star appearances, 5 top-10 Cy Young finishes, and even 2 top-11 finishes in MVP voting. He currently owns an unreal 0.47 ERA on the year and is striking out over 15 batters per 9 innings. He and new White Sox teammate Liam Hendriks are arguably the two best relievers in baseball, and they’re on the same team. As the Tampa Bay Rays showed last postseason, a strong rotation and a lockdown bullpen can carry a team to the Fall Classic. With Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon, and Dylan Cease filling out an electric rotation with a stellar bullpen, Sox pitchers should have no problem preserving leads this year.
Overall Grade: A
The White Sox were huge winners at this year’s deadline. Already possessing one of the most feared lineups in the league heading into the trade deadline, the South Side now will gain two studs in the bullpen, a wizard at second base, and two of their best hitters, Jimenez and Robert, will return as well. With all the talent that Chicago now has, only two things can stop them: injuries, and themselves.