The White Sox have signed right-handed reliever Liam Hendriks to a three-year, $54 million deal — a huge move for a team that is now the clear favorite in the AL Central, and a signing that is downright shocking during an extremely slow, pandemic-affected offseason. Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown was the first to report the news Monday night:
MLB news: White Sox sign Liam Hendriks, top free agent closer https://t.co/YnWetwQQK2 via @Yahoo— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) January 12, 2021
As ESPN’s Jeff Passan clarified, Hendriks’ deal is effectively a four-year contract, though the White Sox — essentially replicating the NBA’s stretch provision — gave themselves the option to stretch Hendriks’ guaranteed $15 million salary over multiple years rather than one if they decline his option for 2024.
If the White Sox decline the option, they will be able to pay the $15 million buyout over the course of multiple years. But the incentive certainly is there for the team to pick it up. And by going that big, the White Sox get the best closer in baseball the last two seasons.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 12, 2021
Hendriks, who will be 32 when spring training begins, is an inspiring story, as he was designated for assignment by the Twins, Orioles, Royals, and Athletics before finding his groove in his early 30s, making his first All-Star team with the A’s in 2019 and posting a combined 1.79 ERA with a 0.90 WHIP, 161 strikeouts, and just 24 walks over 99 appearances (110.1 innings). He excelled in a variety of roles, making two starts as an opener in 2019 and picking up 39 saves between 2019-20.
The White Sox haven’t yet brought back closer Alex Colomé, who was one of the best relievers in baseball last year, and this deal makes it likely that Colomé will head elsewhere with Hendriks taking over ninth-inning duties in 2021. That means that this move is essentially a wash, with Hendriks replacing Colomé in a White Sox bullpen that was very good last season but lacks established names. Any time you can add arguably the best reliever in baseball to your roster, though, it’s good to do so.