So far the 2020 offseason has not quite lived up to the expectations of some Chicago White Sox fans. However, what if they end up signing closer Liam Hendiks and right-handed hitter Marcell Ozuna? The White Sox are predicted to do exactly that in a recent article in The Athletic.
Lynn and Eaton acquisitions
With glaring needs in the starting rotation and a major hole to fill in right field the stars seemed to have aligned perfectly for the White Sox during this free agent period. Trevor Bauer and George Springer are two of the top players in this year’s free agent class and either of them joining the White Sox would not only improve Chicago, but make the White Sox legitimate World Series contenders in 2021.
However, fans have had mixed emotions with their two biggest moves so far, as Rick Hahn traded away Dane Dunning and another lower-level prospect for one year of Lance Lynn. Then, the White Sox followed that move by signing Adam Eaton to a one-year contract worth a guaranteed $8 million to come back to the south side and take over right field again. The Eaton move especially screamed of the White Sox settling for a lower impact player simply because they didn’t want to spend more money getting a better player.
The other options were obvious, with Joc Pederson trending up and mashing righties or Michael Brantley, who has been one of the most underrated hitters since 2014. Admittedly, signing Brantley would have been a tough fit, as he hasn’t played much at all in right field during his decade+ MLB career. But hey, maybe he could have been the team’s DH, depending on how the organization feels about top-ranked prospect Andrew Vaughn and his readiness in 2021.
Yet, even with the frustration over the Eaton acquisition there will be more moves made by the White Sox. They need to sign a closer and Eno Sarris takes his predictions one step further, seeing the White Sox getting the best closer on the market and another big bat for the middle of the lineup.
Right after the 2020 World Series concluded between the Rays and Dodgers, free agent rankings and contract projections began to make the rounds. Right-handed pitcher Liam Hendriks is the number one reliever in free agency, as the closer was predicted to get a three-year, $30 million contract in MLB Trade Rumors offseason outlook, while FanGraphs estimated a similar figure, ranging from $30 million-$36 million over three years as well.
But Eno Sarris sees an even bigger deal coming for Hendriks and he sees it being from the White Sox.
Via The Athletic.
Higher up you have some teams that might see Hendriks as a way to make a good bullpen better, and therefore worth the cost. Teams like the Blue Jays, White Sox, Dodgers and Padres seem to fit that description, and they make up your four finalists for the Aussie reliever’s services. The team that wants him most will pay the most — and there seems to be one team that saw him fire bullets to end their season that may want him the most.
Finalists: Blue Jays, Padres, White Sox, Dodgers
Winner: White Sox sign Liam Hendriks to a three-year, $40 million contract
The 31-year-old was dominant in the short 2020 season, saving 14 games for the Oakland A’s. He posted a 1.78 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and struck out 37 hitters in 25.1 innings. In 2019, Hendriks tossed 85 innings, and had a 1.80 ERA, 0.96 WHIP with 124 strikeouts in 75 appearances.
And again, if you’re upset about the Eaton signing and you were expecting a bigger bat to come in 2021, well Sarris still thinks Marcell Ozuna is that guy for the White Sox.
But that defense threatens to remove most of the NL teams from the list. And for teams needing help in center, it would seem backward to add an iffy-gloved corner outfielder first. Now you’re talking about the Twins, White Sox and Angels. The Twins have some money to spend; could they move from Nelson Cruz to Marcell Ozuna in an effort to get younger? Could Ozuna be this year’s Josh Donaldson? Won’t the Angels spend on pitching? The White Sox seem like a legitimate landing spot, as they could push Adams Eaton and Engel into a platoon on one side of the outfield, giving them decent-to-exceptional defense in two-thirds of the outfield. Ozuna and Eloy Jiménez could basically share corner outfield and DH.
Winner: White Sox sign Marcell Ozuna to a four-year, $80 million contract
So, that’s all good and well, but how serious are the White Sox interested in signing either Hendiks or Ozuna?
After trading for Lance Lynn and signing Adam Eaton the buzz around the White Sox didn’t stop. First, you had Joel Sherman throwing Hendriks’ name as a potential pick up.
The #WhiteSox have been viewed as 1 of the few teams willing to spend this offseason. Put, say, Michael Brantley and Liam Hendriks on their roster after Lynn and you might have more than just the team to beat in the AL Central.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 8, 2020
Since then Brantley has pretty much been ruled out even though he could still fit on the roster as a DH and play in left field too. However, Hendriks’ remains very much on Chicago’s radar.
Here’s what Bob Nightengale wrote earlier in the week. Via USA Today.
They still need to find a closer if they don’t re-sign Alex Colome, and have their sight set on Liam Hendriks. He would be an ideal fit for the White Sox, yielding a 1.79 ERA the past two seasons, striking out 161 batters over 110.1 innings.
However, there haven’t been any concrete reports surrounding Ozuna and the White Sox. That may be because Ozuna is waiting for MLB to figure out if the National League will have the DH in 2021. If it does, then his market obviously doubles in size this offseason.
But the question remains, will the White Sox be aggressive near the top tier of free agents?
Doubts on White Sox spending big
Signing Eaton to $8 million for 2021 kind of solidified the thoughts of not only some fans, but a few MLB reporters as well. On Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Springer going to the White Sox was “extraordinarily unlikely” because the outfielder’s market was deemed too big for the White Sox. Plus, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers added that he doesn’t believe the White Sox are not “fishing in the deep end” of free agency.
At the point the names of Brantley and Pederson were being linked to the White Sox, but they went to a tier below them to get Eaton. So, an $80 million deal for Ozuna? I don’t see that happening, but you shouldn’t be surprised if Hahn’s last big move of the offseason is signing Hendriks to add a shut-down closer at the end of a bullpen that struggled in the final weeks of 2020.