Big potential Cubs free agent target sets Thursday as signing deadline

Weighing multiple offers, this former All-Star closer will either sign this week or re-try the market this summer ahead of a potential postseason push across the league.

Miami Marlins v Chicago White Sox
Miami Marlins v Chicago White Sox / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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With players reporting to camp, the offseason feels like it should be a thing of the past - a topic we can look back on and determine whether or not the Cubs (and a lot of other teams) addressed their biggest needs this winter.

But that's certainly not the world we live in - not with Scott Boras holding the top of the free agent market in a death grip - and numerous other names still looking for new homes, as well. One of those players is three-time All-Star and former Reliever of the Year Liam Hendriks, who will definitely be top of mind over the next 24 or so hours.

From the sounds of it, whether or not Hendriks signs this week or not is totally dependent on whether or not one of these interested clubs meets his asking price. Keep in mind, the veteran right-hander won't be ready to return to a mound until some point in the second half as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, so a two-year deal that allows him to continue his recovery with his sights set on a full-season return in 2025 is probably the ideal outcome for his camp.

The Cubs' big offseason bullpen addition came in the form of former Phillies and Astros fireman Hector Neris - but aside from that, it was a relatively quiet winter for the front office, with a smattering of lower-profile pickups, including old friend Carl Edwards Jr., Yency Almonte and left-handers Edwin Escobar and Richard Lovelady.

There are few MLB teams - Chicago Cubs included - that wouldn't be better off with Liam Hendriks added to the bullpen mix

Adding Hendriks into the fold would bring a more seasoned presence to the mix, not to mention one of the best clubhouse presences in the game. When healthy, the 35-year-old has been among the best relief pitchers in baseball dating back to 2019. From 2019-2022, he made 226 appearances, working to a 2.26 ERA/2.13 FIP and 0.883 WHIP.

In 2023, Hendriks battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma, courageously working his way back only to suffer what turned out to be a season-ending elbow injury that ended his campaign after just five subpar appearances. But given his track record prior to last year, I suspect he's going to find plenty of interest as a free agent.

Circling back to the Cubs, it's all going to come down to asking price. They're not going to break the bank for a mid-30s reliever who might not even pitch this year, especially when you consider the fact that several of the team's top pitching prospects could figure into the MLB club's plans by Opening Day 2025. But if the numbers make sense, Hendriks could potentially give Chicago a shutdown late-season addition in the bullpen under first-year manager Craig Counsell.

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