The start of Spring Training is only a few weeks away, yet Liam Hendriks is still a free agent. Considering that he had Tommy John surgery last August, it is not a surprise that he remains unsigned given that he most likely won’t pitch at all in 2024. His circumstances are quite similar to Brandon Woodruff, who the White Sox should also sign.
Every Sox fan is familiar with Hendriks and his accomplishments. A three-time All-Star, two of those All-Star appearances came in a White Sox uniform. He also compiled 76 saves, a 2.76 ERA, and a 0.88 WHIP in three seasons on the South Side while winning the AL Reliever of the Year award in 2021 and the AL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2023 following his return from stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Historically, most White Sox free agent signings age poorly and are not worth the money. Liam is the exception. He was worth every penny as the team’s closer during their “championship window.”
Parting Of Ways And Potential Reunion
Unfortunately for Hendriks and Sox fans, the team declined his $15 million team option last November. The decision to let him go was a formality from day one of the offseason. They were never going to pay him a $15 million in 2024 when he likely won’t pitch, and declining his option saved the White Sox significant money on the 2024 payroll. Instead of getting the money all in one lump sum, Hendriks will be paid $1.5 million annually for the next decade. If the White Sox gave Hendriks a new contract, it likely would not take that much money to sign him given that he is an aging reliever with injury concerns. A two-year deal at an affordable price point would likely suffice assuming Hendriks has interest in returning to the South Side, as that would allow him to use 2024 as a rehab year from his Tommy John surgery and hopefully return to the mound by 2025.
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Why Bring Liam Back?
One might ask why the White Sox should bring back an aging reliever when the team is not good, and honestly, it is fair to have that opinion. Signing Hendriks would likely have little impact on the team’s win/loss record. But the scope of Hendriks’ impact on the White Sox organization goes well beyond his contributions on the mound. He is one of the nicest guys in baseball and a fan favorite. He and his wife Kristi have done extensive charity work in the Chicagoland area during his team in a White Sox uniform and genuinely want to improve the community. His nomination for the 2023 Roberto Clemente Award, which “is bestowed annually to the player who best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions, both on and off the field,” is further proof of that. He has also been known for meeting with fans before games who are undergoing cancer treatments to show his support. Liam is a class act through and through and one of the few White Sox players in recent years who was genuinely likable and easy to root for.
Leadership And Clubhouse Presence
The theme of the White Sox offseason thus far is bringing in veteran players with a history of providing leadership and a positive clubhouse presence. Martin Maldonado, Paul DeJong, and Nicky Lopez are examples. But there is no better example of a leader and a positive clubhouse presence than Liam Hendriks. His presence and leadership are an asset to any organization. Letting him finish his MLB career in a White Sox uniform would be a good story for the organization and fans alike.