The White Sox have signed reliever Liam Hendriks to a multi-year contract, as reported on Monday night.
Bolstering the bullpen is often the last step as teams edge towards contention after a rebuild. The Chicago White Sox have just signed the best reliever on the market.
Hendriks gets $39 million over the three years of his contract. There’s a fourth-year option for $15 million which also has a $15 million buyout. If the ChiSox decline the option, the money will be paid over a longer period, per Jon Heyman. This caps off Hendriks’ fairy tale trip from journeyman to All-Star.
It’s no fluke, either. Hendriks leads MLB in ERA of pitchers with over 80 innings pitched since the start of 2019 (1.79) and he’s struck out 38% of batters.
There is no question this is a risk, however. Teams have been reluctant to hand long-term deals to relievers in recent offseasons. Hendriks turns 32 next month. Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman all got big contracts in the 2016/17 offseason, and they were all disappointing to varying degrees. Craig Kimbrel held out until midway through a season.
There’s no sign of decline with Hendriks. He’s improved in his thirties, and perhaps he’s just a late bloomer. There’s no reason for concern with velocity drop off or anything like that, but MLB front offices tend to be wary of players in their thirties, and particularly those who throw in the high-nineties.
How Hendriks performs in 2023 might not matter. The White Sox are a World Series contender in 2021, and should be in 2022. Hendriks is a massive upgrade on a bullpen which was around league average last season. Only time will tell how short-termist this move is, but in an offseason of salary cutting and rebuilding, it’s exciting to see a franchise go for it as the White Sox have. Hendriks joins fellow veteran Lance Lynn in the Windy City, who they traded for a few weeks ago.
It’s been a quiet offseason in the American League. The White Sox have been the most active of the contenders – it’s not unreasonable to make them the favorites.