According to a new report from White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin, the Chicago Cubs have had talks with free agent reliever Liam Hendriks.
The White Sox signed Hendriks to a three-year contract worth $54 million prior to the 2021 season. The first two years of Hendriks' tenure on the South Side were stellar, where he locked down 75 saves with a 2.67 ERA. Unfortunately, the Australian native was diagnosed with cancer in 2022 and he missed the beginning of the 2023 season. After receiving treatment and recovering from the disease, Hendriks made five appearances in May and June before going on the injured list with elbow inflammation.
In August, Hendriks received Tommy John surgery and he is expected to be sidelined for 12-14 months, making his 2024 campaign likely another recovery year. This is probably why the White Sox front office declined to pick up Hendriks' 2024 club option worth $15 million, making him a free agent. Although the Cubs were mentioned as an interested party, this was likely just the team doing its due diligence given Hendriks' comments.
"So, there's always that. There's been nothing substantial about any of the conversations we've had, but they [the Cubs] were one of the teams that reached out pretty early on."
If Hendriks does indeed return in 2025, he will be 36 years old by the time of opening day and will not have thrown a pitch in the major leagues for almost two full years. I don't expect a major league club to sign Hendriks until after his arm is fully recovered but teams will definitely be interested given his track record. On the other hand, after cancer treatment and a Tommy John surgery, teams will need to see Hendriks in action to guarantee he will bring anything close to what he did in his best years from 2019-2022.
It would be nice to see Hendriks in pinstripes though even if it's just to hear the reaction from White Sox fans. Even if he doesn't pitch again, the White Sox will be paying Hendriks $1.5 million a year for the next decade per the terms of his buyout.