Disclaimer: White Sox fans bear with me, at times during this blog you are going to think I am being a delusional and salty Cubs fan, just hear me out.
Long time, no talk. I had been holding off on posting the last couple days in hopes that the MLB offseason would eventually kick into gear, but we are two weeks into January and still have the names J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, George Springer, and D.J. Lemahieu left unsigned. Fortunately for the Chicago White Sox, they took matters into their own hands (at least one team in Chicago is) and inked a deal with former A’s closer Liam Hendriks for 3 years/$54 million. Hendriks, considered by most as one of the top relievers in the game, bolsters a White Sox bullpen with an already solid group of Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer, and Matt Foster. At first glance this move seems like a no-brainer, just last week in my A.L. predictions blog I suggested that a move for Hendriks would make the White Sox instant contenders. Now that the move is official, I want to look deeper into just what Liam (and his contract) is bringing to the South Side.
Hendriks is set to make quite a bit of money in the next three seasons wearing his new black and white pinstripes. As of now, in 2021 he will be the fourth highest paid closer ($11.3 million); in 2022, the third ($13.3 million); and in 2023, he will be the highest ($14.3 million). To say the least, the White Sox have a lot of belief in their new closer and they have good reason. Since 2019, Hendriks’ numbers with the Athletics have been nothing short of phenomenal; he has posted a 1.79 ERA, 39 saves, and 5.3 WAR through 110 innings of work. This is exactly the type of move teams make to ensure a deep run into October, however, I think the contract comes off pricey and the White Sox may have pulled the trigger a little too early. I have zero idea how many teams were in conversation with Hendriks, but with a deal like this, I hope for the White Sox sake that other suitors were ready to spend big as well. I will not go as far to say the White Sox overpaid for Hendriks, as he has yet to even take the field, but I do have my doubts on just how excited Sox fans should be with this move. Listed below are the advanced pitching metrics of seven free agent closers for 2021.
Liam Hendriks (Age: 32):
* 100 is average, lower the number the better
Brad Hand (31):
Roberto Osuna (26):
Kirby Yates (34):
Archie Bradley (28):
Brandon Kintzler (36):
Alex Colome (32):
Of these seven closers I do believe Liam Hendriks is the best one, I am not arguing against that. There are also a number of factors besides just the metrics above that the White Sox front office most likely looked into such as – age, injury history, average fastball velocity, personality, work ethic, etc. Like I mentioned earlier, the Sox’s choice to spend their money (especially the amount) this early on in free agency on a reliever is questionable. Looking at the roster prior to the signing, the Sox already sized up very well to their division rival Twins. One could look at this move and argue it not only filled a role that was open, but it also filled it with the best option on the market. In all of the advanced metrics above, Hendriks has significantly improved his game over the last three years and it is always nice to sign a guy trending upwards.
With the A.L. as wide open as it is, I will cave and admit that White Sox fans should be happy with this deal. I still feel Colome, Osuna, or Bradley could have been targeted with cheaper contracts. Plus, I do like that Osuna and Bradley are 26 and 27 respectively. Furthermore, teams with prior success like the Astros, Yankees, Rays, and Twins have been silent so far this free agency, while the South Side has only gotten stronger. While I personally think the Sox could have alternatively used the money towards Hendriks on two of the relievers listed above (lessens the burden if Liam were to get injured or underperform), I think I am just quick to judge paying relievers high contracts after how Craig Kimbrel has played for my Cubs.
At the end of the day this signing made the White Sox better, and to be quite honest that is all you can ask for in a team. I think this upcoming season will be memorable in more ways than one for the White Sox; they are the favorites for their division, they are the better team in Chicago for the first time in awhile, and with the addition of Hendriks they are certainly pushing to win the pennant for the first time since 2005. I do not know how much more money the White Sox are willing to spend, but there are rumors linked to outfielders George Springer and Marcell Ozuna. Because the future of the White Sox outfield already boasts the names Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Andrew Vaughn, I do not see them going after the two aforementioned all stars. But with Eloy’s lack of defensive abilities, I would not be surprised if they go for it anyway and move Eloy (or Ozuna if they sign him) to the DH spot.