The White Sox don’t just have the Twins and the American League Central in their sights; they’ve been one of few aggressive teams around the league this offseason as they push hard for a run deep into October, their eyes on the World Series. Late Monday night brought another huge
The White Sox don’t just have the Twins and the American League Central in their sights; they’ve been one of few aggressive teams around the league this offseason as they push hard for a run deep into October, their eyes on the World Series.
Late Monday night brought another huge splash, when the White Sox agreed to a three-year deal with top closer Liam Hendriks with a club option for a fourth year, sources told MLB.com. Hendriks is guaranteed $54 million over the life of the uniquely structured contract, which includes a $15 million club option for a fourth season in 2024 or a $15 million buyout that would be paid out over a designated period of time, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
The club has not confirmed the deal.
• Hendriks is No. 1 reliever on MLB Network’s Top 10 Right Now
The most coveted reliever on this year’s free-agent market, Hendriks adds to an offseason haul that already features front-end starter Lance Lynn — acquired in a trade with Texas — and a reunion with outfielder Adam Eaton. The Sox have been far more active in making their team better than their division competitors, as the Twins have only signed one player to an MLB deal this offseason, while Cleveland traded superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the Mets last week.
The $54 million deal is the highest guarantee to a free agent this offseason, surpassing the four-year, $40.6 million deal agreed to by catcher James McCann and the Mets in December. It’s a strong commitment to a reliever, but the Sox are in position to make one of these clear win-now moves considering their young, relatively cost-controlled core and a seemingly wide-open window of contention.
• Hot Stove Tracker
Considering that Hendriks’ fourth-year option is reportedly worth the same amount as the buyout, it’s a deal that likely incentivizes Chicago to eventually pick up that option, which will encompass Hendriks’ age-35 season.
Hendriks earned that payday after two elite seasons with Oakland in 2019 and ’20, resulting in an All-Star Game nod and down-ballot votes for both the AL Cy Young Award and MVP Award last season, when he posted a 1.78 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings. He saved 14 games for the AL West champion A’s last year, pitched against the White Sox twice in the AL Wild Card Series and was named the winner of the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year Award.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Hendriks wanted to pitch on the South Side. Months ago, he spoke glowingly of the Chicago roster and their future after the A’s eliminated the White Sox from the postseason.
“Hats off to the White Sox. They’re a fantastic team,” Hendriks said in October. “They’ve got a great lineup, and they’re going to be a powerhouse in the AL Central for several years just based on these young guys they’ve got in their lineup and the rotation behind [Lucas] Giolito and [Dallas] Keuchel. It’s going to be really fun to watch those guys play for a long time.”
He’ll have one of the best seats in the house to watch those guys play every day — that is, until he’ll be called upon to close out those games. Hendriks, 31, should slide seamlessly into the closer role vacated by free agent Alex Colomé. Aaron Bummer could also have been a candidate to step in as closer, but the lefty should remain an elite setup man and have some flexibility in his usage late in games.
Coupled with continued steps forward from Codi Heuer, Matt Foster and rookie fireballer Garrett Crochet alongside Hendriks and fellow veteran Evan Marshall, the Sox bullpen should grow into an even bigger area of strength for the team after ranking sixth in the AL in wins above replacement as a unit last season, per FanGraphs. Hendriks’ signing should help them close the relief gap with Minnesota and Cleveland, which both finished ahead of the Sox last season in bullpen WAR.
Hendriks was originally signed out of Australia by the Twins in 2007 and debuted in ’11, also pitching for the Blue Jays and Royals as an ineffective starter. It was only in ’15 that he found his niche in the bullpen and began his evolution into the elite reliever that the Sox will count on to anchor their late innings for years to come.
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.