Liam Hendriks represents the elite level of bullpen talent and should be on the Cubs’ radar this offseason.
Before we get too much into the pipe dream of a fit on the Northside for All-Star closer and now free agent Liam Hendriks it should be noted that the offseason Major League Baseball will face this winter may be the darkest we’ve seen in some time.
In recent days reports from across the game have shown teams’ desires to cut dollars in any way they can. The Cleveland Indians placed closer Brad Hand on outright waivers, choosing instead to potentially eat a $1 million buyout cost in lieu of his $10 million option. The Atlanta Braves did the same with Darren O’Day, moving on from his $3.5 million club option and saving $3 million with a $500,000 buyout.
The foreseeable turmoil of the upcoming offseason does not favor free agency, and the likelihood of mega-contracts being handed out to even the best names on the market is far from a slam dunk. Thinking about this can present two possible avenues for teams themselves and how the market will be viewed.
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The Oakland Athletics are faced with the impending decision with Hendriks to propose a qualifying offer and whether it makes fiscal sense for their club. At a one year hook of $18.9 million, it is most likely not feasible in the game’s current climate. It seems now a near guarantee Hendriks will have a new home in 2021.
The Cubs fit into this in a few different ways. While the penny-pinching nature of Tom Ricketts will continue to take center stage, the club has many options to make within their ranks. It does not seem likely that Jon Lester will return at the $25 million club option (He did not get the offer). The same can be said about Daniel Descalso and his $3.5 million option.
Starter’s Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood made $10.5 and $13 million last season, respectively. They are also free agents and do not seem likely to return to the Northside. If the Cubs choose not to bring back any of the above listed, it opens some space for Hendriks’ potential fit.
Over the past two seasons, Hendriks has been lights out. He carries an absurd 1.79 ERA over a span of 110 1/3 innings, a 1.70 FIP, and 2.95 xFIP. His strikeout numbers are through the roof at a staunch 38 percent rate while the walk rate is an obscenely low 3.3 percent.
Hendriks was once a member of the Cubs, although many fans do not remember. In 2013, the club claimed him off waivers from the Minnesota Twins after 30 appearances in the big leagues in which he posted a 6.06 ERA. It was short-lived as he was placed on waivers just ten days later, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Senior writer Keith Law recently published his free agency piece over at The Athletic, which you can read here (subscription required). In it, he projected a high dollar two-year deal for Hendriks. It seems to fit the market, especially from what we have seen in recent days, and that could keep the Cubs in play for his services if they choose to pursue him.
One thing is known: change is on the horizon, and it is going to be swift and impactful. In the sense of a full rebuild, signing Hendriks doesn’t make sense. While the talent is still on the roster, however, letting it fly with Hendriks could be what the Cubs need heading into 2021.