CARLSBAD, Calif. — The trade looked like a bold and excellent move at the time, but it didn’t work out.
So the White Sox likely will move on from reliever Craig Kimbrel. They are more than ready to trade the eight-time All-Star closer after he struggled in non-save situations in 2021, amassing a 5.09 ERA in mostly a setup role after general manager Rick Hahn dealt second baseman Nick Madrigal and reliever Codi Heuer to get him from the Cubs, for whom he posted a 0.49 ERA
When the Sox picked up Kimbrel’s hefty $16 million option for 2022 last week, it was already known they would dangle him as trade bait. But Hahn made it public at the general managers meetings Tuesday.
‘‘It’s probably easier to project him in that role where he’s had that success rather than how he was used by us,’’ Hahn said.
Hahn said that Kimbrel had no beef about his role in the seventh and eighth innings with Liam Hendriks holding down the ninth and that he would do it again, if asked.
‘‘He just wants to win and is willing to fulfill whatever role our club has in mind,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘It didn’t work out the way we wanted last year, so perhaps there is a better use of his skills than how we were doing it. So we have to reconsider his usage with us versus a potential trade.’’
With the Sox not picking up second baseman Cesar Hernandez’s option for 2022, Kimbrel might be used in a deal for a second baseman or for pitching help — starters or relievers, both of which are needs. A backup catcher and a right fielder are also potential areas of need, although Hahn seems comfortable with a combination of Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets and Adam Engel in right.
Hahn mentioned internal options Danny Mendick and Romy Gonzalez for second base, but he knows the Sox are stronger with one or both in a utility role. So he said he will ‘‘survey that market — trade or free agent — and see if there is a way to get better. We haven’t closed the door on perhaps bringing back Cesar at some point.’’
Or Leury Garcia, who also is a free agent.
Hahn was less forthcoming about how much chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is willing to spend on a top free agent, such as Marcus Semien.
‘‘Can’t talk about anyone specific, but let’s see how the winter unfolds,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘We have flexibility right now. Does that mean it’s the wisest move to spend most or all of that on one need, as opposed to spreading it over multiple [needs]? That’s what we have to weigh over the coming months. And do we have to move something in order to address more needs in a smarter way?’’
The Sox might have to eat some of Kimbrel’s contract, depending on what the return might be. They could have declined his option, but they know there will be some interest in him, despite his poor second half.
In any event, it would be good to get something back from a trade that yielded little for a team aiming for a World Series.
‘‘It’s human nature to be concerned that someone doubles down on something that doesn’t work to try and salvage a part of it, but I assure you I certainly have a pretty good understanding of sunk cost,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘Worst thing we could do is compound it and make another decision that didn’t work.’’
Hahn also wouldn’t rule out bringing back left-hander Carlos Rodon, who didn’t receive an $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Sox.
‘‘We’ll see how his market unfolds and what the options are for us over the coming months,’’ Hahn said.