White Sox land top free-agent closer Liam Hendriks
The White Sox signed the best closer available on the market late Monday, reeling in right-hander Liam Hendriks with a three-year, $54 million deal that includes a club option for a fourth year.
The White Sox went to the top of the free-agent heap for their closer.
According to multiple reports, they signed the best one available on the market late Monday, reeling in right-hander Liam Hendriks with a three-year, $54 million deal that includes a club option for a fourth year.
Spending big on closers isn’t for everybody, but it’s not the first time general manager Rick Hahn has opened the checkbook for a ninth-inning standout. The Sox signed David Robertson for four years and $46 million before the 2015 season.
This time, they did it during a quiet hot stove offseason for baseball, landing the 31-year-old Hendriks, who helped the Athletics defeat the Sox in three games in the AL Wild Card series, with the largest guaranteed deal of any free agent. The commitment, along with a December trade for right-handed starter Lance Lynn, gives the Sox arguably the best closer in baseball the last two seasons and firms up their chances going deeper in the postseason in 2021.
The deal is pending a physical and has not been announced. It will pay Hendriks $39 million in the first three years, with the fourth-year club option salary and buyout — which would be paid out over a number of years if the Sox decline the option — both at $15 million.
‘‘Hats off to the White Sox,’’ Hendriks said after he helped the A’s defeat the Sox in October. ‘‘They’re a fantastic team. They’ve got a great lineup. And they’re going to be a powerhouse in the AL Central for several years based on the young guys they’ve got in their rotation and behind [starting pitchers] Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel.’’
The Sox’ closer duties in the last two seasons were in capable hands, with right-hander Alex Colome converting a combined 42 saves in 46 opportunities and posting a 2.27 ERA. But Colome struck out only 8.1 and 6.4 batters per nine innings in 2019 and 2020, respectively — numbers that did not convince the front office, including chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, that he was the best man for the job. Hendriks struck out 13.1 batters per nine innings in each of the last two seasons.
In the A’s wild-card series victory against the Sox, Hendriks struck out eight of the 14 batters he faced.
The Sox’ late-inning depth — with young arms such as right-handers Codi Heuer and Matt Foster and veteran Evan Marshall, left-hander Aaron Bummer and fireballing rookie left-hander Garrett Crochet — afforded them potential options for the closer role, but landing Hendriks allows them to keep the aforementioned relievers in sixth-, seventh- and eighth-inning roles. Hendriks also has proved to be capable in multiple-inning situations.
Asked last month whether the Sox needed to add a closer, new manager Tony La Russa alluded to his years of having a lockdown ninth-inning piece such as Dennis Eckersley when he was the manager of the A’s.
‘‘It helps you set up the rest of the bullpen, and it also has an effect on your opponents, knowing that the game has gotten short,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘But what you see over the years is that as the bullpens have been used more, the deeper the bullpen, the better your chances. And that’s one of the things that stands out about the 2021 White Sox going forward.
‘‘We have legitimate starters in [Lance] Lynn and Lucas and Dallas, and we’ve got some outstanding young talent. But what you end up doing is you do the best you can to identify that late-inning closer.’’
The Hendriks deal was first reported by ESPN.