Though Alex Colomé might have made watching him difficult at times, he left big shoes to fill. He converted 42 of 46 saves over his two seasons in Chicago, and more importantly, the White Sox went 92-1 when they entered the ninth inning with a lead for the best such winning percentage in baseball.
The White Sox are signing the pitcher best equipped to maintain those standards. Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that the White Sox are in agreement on a multiyear deal with All-Star closer Liam Hendriks.
The deal is an unusual one, according to Jeff Passan. Hendriks is guaranteed $54 million for three or four years. The White Sox will pay him $13 million over each of the first three seasons. If the White Sox want to pick up his option for 2024, it’s $15 million. If they won’t, they’ll pay a $15 million buyout over the course of multiple years.
Hendriks, who was conveniently labeled by MLB Network tonight as baseball’s top reliever “Right Now,” posted a 1.79 ERA over the last two seasons in Oakland. He gained control of the closer role during the 2019 season and racked up an incredible 161 strikeouts against 24 walks over 110⅓ innings. He transformed himself by gaining two ticks on his fastball, which sits 96 mph. He throws it 70 percent of the time thanks to a spin rate that allows him to throw it early or late. He pairs it with a slider that’s nearly as effective for most of his remaining pitches.
The combination resulted in a strikeout rate that crested over 40 percent last year, with a swinging-strike rate of 19 percent. The White Sox bullpen lacked a whiffmonster of that caliber in 2020. Evan Marshall topped all full-season relievers with a 32.3 percent strikeout rate and 15.4 percent whiff rate last year, and no White Sox reliever matched either stat during the 162-game 2019 season.
(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)
Go get Nelson Cruz and lean fully into this Very White Sox Offseason. We’ve gotten the flawed corner outfielder, the older SP traded for a prospect, and the highly priced closer. But we still lack that large, aging slugger coming off a big year, who immediately craters upon arrival. (To be clear, while I know deep down as a Sox signing he would be absolutely atrocious from the moment he set foot in Chicago, I would overall be quite happy with this offseason if it ends with Nelson Cruz as our DH)
I get where you are coming from and I do have to admit that this offseason is bringing back memories of the 2014-2015 offseason — to more explicitly lay out what you were saying:
But this year’s core covers many more players/positons; the returning veterans (Abreu/Grandal/Keuchel) are better; there is more upside potential from the 4/5 spots in the rotation; the rest of the bullpen looks stronger; the prospects that might be brought up are likely to be more impactful; and whoever is at DH is not going to do worse than Adam LaRoche.
I was actually pretty excited going into the 2015 season, and though it ended up a disappointment, that’s not going to stop me from being even more excited about the 2021 season.
Yes, the comparisons of this rebuild to the last one are overblown. I understand there are similar worries, but the supplements the team has added (Keuchel, Grandal, Lynn, Hendricks, Eaton) and the core (Abreu, Anderson, Moncada, Jimenez, Robert, Madrigal, Giolito) are far superior to the ’15-’16 push—and there’s more internal talent that could conceivably be added to that core than then, too (Kopech, Cease, Vaughn, Crochet).
And to @mikeyb – I’d prefer the Sox sign a DH that could field a position, too, but man it would be fun to watch Cruz mash baseballs in the middle of this lineup.
Ha and I completely agree with your last sentence as well. Certainly would love to go get somebody who could credibly play defense (even if it’s somebody like Brantley who probably won’t be able to play much defense by the end of his contract); but if 2019/2020 Nelson Cruz was dropped into the middle of the 2021 White Sox lineup, that would just be an absurd level of fun on a daily basis.
100% agree. I was mostly just kidding around (although this Front Office’s track record will never stop making me at least a little nervous). Your final sentence is EXACTLY how I feel.
Top 5 biggest White Sox contracts of all time? I figure Colome was much cheaper but if it makes Jerry spend money I’m all for it; now to sign Cruz for 5 years and 50 million (through his age 44 season)
Not how I would’ve chosen to allocate the available funds this offseason, but adding good players (especially when it only costs money) is good so I’m for it.
FG depth charts (only steamer presently) now has them a win clear of Minnesota for best in the central and a win behind the yanks for best team in the AL.
I’m with you. I like that the Sox are improving, but “$54 million closer” is not how I would have drawn up our big FA splash in an offseason where Springer, Brantley, Ozuna, and Bauer were all available.
Tony wants a closer. Tony gets a closer. I hope Tony also wants another starting pitcher and a DH.
David Robertson 2.0
I have no problem with David Robertson 2.0. Marginal wins baby!
Yeah, I’m trying to understand if this comment was meant as a negative? Robertson was like really good for his entire 4-year contract. They should be so lucky this time around.
Is it wasted money if they were never going to get those guys to begin with? Overpay or not id rather they spend the money on players that improve the team rather then negotiate to finish 2nd again like they did with Harper and Machado.
I totally hear you. I’m not excited about their offseason at all, given that only Hendricks will even be with the team after 2021. Not with all the players available that you mention (plus an overlooked Rosario) that they have not been tied to at all. Their record last year was sub-.500 vs right handed pitchers. That is a huge, glaring weakness. Eaton is a woeful upgrade if he even is a better hitter than Engel at all, so they have done almost nothing to upgrade there. Even though I am sure they will likely do a bit better simply with Encarnacion and Mazara removed from the lineup.
But still, the only dollars they have spent toward 2022 or beyond are for 3 years of a closer who was a below average pitcher with a career ERA well over 4 prior to 2019. If he does what he has done since the middle of 2019, he will probably help the team. But still, does not address their major weaknesses which include an inability to get a big time impact player. 3 or 4 minor upgrades elsewhere would not have the impact that Springer would have, period. Springer hit 30 homers in 2019 against right handed pitching. That’s the kind of signing that would immediately fix their lack of success vs RHP’s, and bring multiple legit shots at a championship, a guy with an epic and established record in both the regular and postseason. Instead their big spash is on a guy who was a bad pitcher prior to 2019. It might work out, but that does not make it wise.
Lest we forget, they will be looking for a starting pitcher and rightfielder again after 2021 because they went cheap and 1-year addressing both those needs. But hey, at least they did not trade a good prospect for a closer!
While I am 100% with you in being annoyed about them not being in on Springer (and other elite free agents), I don’t think Hendriks’ career stats are really relevant at all here. 35% of his career innings (almost all of them at the very beginning of his ML career) were thrown as a starter. As a reliever, he’s got a career 3.17 ERA (2.53 FIP). And on top of that, he hasn’t even been the same pitcher the whole time he’s been a reliever. Before 2019 (the year he went from really good to elite), he ditched his awful two-seamer (career pVAL -16.4) and leaned into his four-seamer (+43 career pVAL). Steamer has him projected as the best reliever in baseball next year. Unless his arm falls off, he’s going to help a lot.
Same, but I’ve yelled into that void enough this offseason. If the options were Hendriks or put the money back in Jerry’s pocket, I’ll take Hendriks.
That I agree on. It’s only a matter of whether money spent on Hendricks prevents them from getting someone else. I certainly hope Hendricks is as good as he was in 19/20, I just would not have bet a 4 year deal on that. I hope it is way better than the Robertson signing!
I mean, who else were they going to get? It was rumored they were never really in on Springer. There’s been nothing connecting them to Bauer other than Bauer himself (and he’s connecting himself to basically everyone). They basically said Brantley was too expensive. Realmuto obviously isn’t a fit. Ditto LeMahieu. I guess Ozuna maybe could have been alternative? Who else are we talking about here?
I’m trying to figure out the luxury tax implications of this strange contract (I know, just let me live in a fantasy world of my own creation for a minute).
So the contract is counted as 54/3 with a $18M luxury tax number for 2021, 2022, 2023. If they exercise the buyout, the tax number becomes $15M for 2024, but they get a $5M credit for any overage taxes paid in 2021-2023. Essentially, it is now treated like a $13M AAV for the first 3 years and a new one year contract at $15M for the fourth year. If they don’t exercise the option, the buyout doesn’t count toward the luxury tax payroll for 2024-beyond.
If they had just guaranteed the 4th year it would be a straight $13.5M hit over 4 years.
Correct me if I’m wrong.
Fact 1: I am a White Sox fan.
Fact 2: I have not bothered to learn the nuances of the luxury tax rules over the years.
Fact 3: Fact 2 is very much related to Fact 1.
It’s much more fun to pretend
I don’t know, but a couple of commenters on MLBTR seem confident that because the 3 years and $54M are guaranteed, $18M will count against the CBT for each of the first 3 years, and $0 will count in 2024, even if they exercise the option. This could be a tactical ploy to minimize their CBT hit in 2024 when some of their current young players might be due large arbitration salaries.
If the $0 CBT hit in 2024 is correct, it could also be a way to increase his potential trade value for the 4th year of the contract, assuming an acquiring team would get the same $0 CBT hit.
2021: our bullpen looks great!
2024: we can’t resign lucas giolito because we have to buy out our closer
Don’t worry. They’ll just trade away Luis Robert with Hendriks so another team has to pay the buyout
Maybe the “buyout over the course of multiple years” is the old Bobby Bonilla special.
Holy crap, it kind of is. Nightengale is reporting the $15 million buyout is spread over 10 years.
It’s such an odd buyout. Like the only benefit is the difference in NPV.
If we assume that the $15m is spread out evenly over the ten years and 9% inflation (the average over the last few years), then it’s the equivalent of a $10.5m buyout.
Hard to imagine Hendricks could decline enough to not be worth $4.5m.
Well, that plus it’s an interest-free loan.
That’s what discounting by the inflation rate of $/WAR accounts for
Oof this is a little too realistic to be funny haha
Wow. I was happy until I saw the insane overpay.
The market is slow moving, but players are getting paid. Not counting QOs, 13 of MLBTR’s top 50 FA have signed and 11 have eclipsed their projections. The two that didn’t: Greg Holland, who apparently took a discount to return to KC, and Ha-Seong Kim, is a bigger unknown than most. In a few cases, players eclipsed their projections by wide margins (see McCann, Morton, Santana, Minor, Smyly, and now Hendricks). If you’re counting by projections from a publication, then almost every contract handed out so far is an overpay. If James McCann is worth 4 years, $40m, then so is Liam Hendriks.
Furthermore, Hendriks was the top RP on the market and the best RP over the last two years. Over the ’19-’20 span, Hendricks was worth more than any other RP at 5.2 fWAR. Second place among RP was Kirby Yates at… 3.4. He also led all RP in ERA at 1.66. Someone who dominates a position like that ought to get paid well.
All this to say: this is not an overpay.
I wonder if the White Sox and A’s miscalculated by not giving qualifying offers to McCann and Hendriks. Yes, a single year’s salary on their contracts is less than the QO, but would a free agent in his 30s pass up the opportunity for that much guaranteed money for the one-year payday?
I don’t think McCann was eligible for a QO.
McCann and Colomé were eligible for qualifying offers; the one candidate on the Sox who was not was Encarnación.
One year at $18 million would be high, though McCann would effectively fill two needs at once and the length of the contract would make sense for Andrew Vaughn’s timeline. Projections for McCann and Hendriks were low on both years and money, indicating teams are valuing their skills higher than the general public does.
Thanks for the correction!
It’s a good question. McCann may have been worth it, but I’m not sure he would have been worth it to the White Sox. It’s hard to justify $18m to a backup catcher/part-time DH who is iffy against RHP.
In one of Fegan’s articles, he mentioned in LaRussa’s book that Tony likes a solid closer because it allows him to better strategize the game. But this reminds me of when he put Eckersley in the closer role. Eck was so good, it didn’t seem fair. I remember thinking at the time, is he allowed to do that? Take an ok starter and make them dominant at the end of the game? why aren’t other teams doing that? This is a total LaRussa influence move, which I don’t mind at all. Shocked and happy they signed Hendricks.
I think Hahn has learned to be aggressive within the financial restraints Jerry has set for him. Under those limits the Sox still cannot go after superstar starters or position players, but they can afford to pay for top-of-the-market catchers and closers. Honestly not a bad strategy.
Championships are won by pitting great players against good ones. We just went out and added a great player.
First, just gonna repeat this maybe for the last time, Colome is the least celebrated player in my sox lifetime, all the guy did was come in and save games, forget the peripherals and how nervous he made you feel 42-46 speaks for itself and I hope he gets rewarded by some other team on the free agent market.
Forget the likely poor allocation of resources Hendriks is an absolute beast on the mound. The Whitesox on paper may have the best bullpen in baseball and that’s before considering Crochet could be added to the mix for the playoff push….
Got the sox payroll sitting at about 125-130 now… not sure how they are gonna finish the roster off but if you can’t find a LH hitting dh bat, just go big on like a 1 year 20 mil deal for Cruz…. lets mash away.
I think you’re right about Colomé. To be sure, every player’s job is to be as good as possible at baseball but they also have more specific roles that fill out a team. Abreu’s job is to be a team leader and mash in the middle of the order. Sale’s job was to be the staff ace. Lynn’s job will be staff workhorse. The peripherals show how likely a player is to get a certain job done, but when it comes down to it the question is: did they get it done?
For better or worse, Colomé’s job was simple: save games. Given the stats Jim quoted at the opening of this article, I’d say he did his job as well as any Sox player in recent memory. Hats off to him!
I was just gonna post my latest payroll calculation. I’ve got them at a hair over $128 mil with the remaining unknowns being:
1) Giolito and Lopez’s final salaries
2) DH (currently have Vaughn as a placeholder there with a league min salary)
3) Backup C (currently have Collins as a placeholder there with a league min salary)
4) Possible depth SP addition
Hopefully they still have some additional dollars to play with to fill in some of these holes.
Thanks, EB, for the info on salary totals to date. Given that there’s not likely much left to spend, how about this as a set of options:
Would love to finally learn if Collins and/or Mercedes can be a factor on the major league team, Low bar to clear for improvement at DH so low risk for a couple of months, and lots of money to save if either one sticks.
I should have clarified, I’m using Giolito and Lopez’s highest arb estimates from MLBTR for this exercise (so I don’t have a zero for them now).
I hope they shoot a little higher than that at catcher and especially DH. There are plenty of veteran catchers out there that should be able to be had on a one year deal and being a Grandal injury away from Collins sharing the catcher position with one of Zavala or Mercedes is pretty terrifying. They need better depth than that.
Ditto DH where they’re currently relying on a bunch of completely unproven players. Obviously everyone loves Vaughn, but he hasn’t even taken an at-bat above A ball. At least put a cheap vet in from of him to give yourself some options. There is way too high a chance of a Vaughn / Mercedes / Collins DH group flaming out spectacularly in 2021 for a team that’s trying to win a world series. And that’s not even including concerns about Eloy’s ability to stay on the field. Getting a DH who can play a somewhat credible LF would be supremely beneficial. Again, there are guys who should be gettable on a pretty cheap one year deal in this mold.
I’ll continue to stump for Vaughn to start the season at DH. My case is as follows:
(1) by starting the season at DH, he takes his lumps early and gets passed them quicker. He’ll (ideally) have a full season under his belt when the Sox are in the playoff race/playoffs.
(2) by starting the season at DH, the Sox can more quickly assess whether he’s ready. If he’s not, they can pivot to another option at the trade deadline (or elsewhere in the system, if the option is there).
(3) We just saw what a talented player from a major college conference can do without time in the minors. We’ve all got Crochet penciled in the back of the bullpen. Pitching maybe a little different, but Vaughn was drafted two years ago and (when drafted) was an advanced college bat. I’m confident he can be at least as good as some one year, cheap DH signing the Sox might otherwise get.
If the Sox want to pony up for Brantley or we think Cruz has another great year left in him, then I’m all for it. But if the alternative is signing some 1B on the cheap as a gap to Vaughn, just let Vaughn start. Those kind of players are usually (very) available at the trade deadline anyway. And, at the deadline, you have a better sense of which players are producing and you save some money (likely for very little prospect capital).
I just feel like that leaves them way too exposed, not only at DH but also in the OF corners. The point isn’t to necessarily bridge the gap to Vaughn, but to setup multiple levels of possible solutions to minimize the possibility of a bad outcome. If Vaughn comes out of the gate looking completely overmatched or one of Eloy or Eaton gets hurt, they’ll need to wait at least a couple months to go find anyone decent on the trade market. We’ve seen how teams like the Dodgers and Rays have underscored the importance of depth these last several years. We’re talking about a couple mil here. I just don’t see the point in taking on all of that risk to save a few million dollars.
I agree. If Vaughn is not ready to be the full time DH (and since he hasn’t played above high A, that is very possible), why have a hole in the lineup for 3 months with no real options to back him up? I agree that they shouldn’t sign someone for cheap, but adding a proven hitter like Brantley or Rosario or Cruz is necessary if they are going to be serious about the World Series this year.
Sounds like a role Joc could fill. It’s time for Kenny to finally get his guy.
Go get him Kenny, I mean Rick!
The problem with Joc is he can’t hit lefties. With a likely platoon in right with Eaton/Engel, the Sox need someone who can share LF/DH with Eloy every day.
According to the WS’s own website, our roster as currently constructed has a 4 man bench and 8 relievers. If we keep 8 relievers, things get a bit dicey and that 4 man bench includes the fact that Grandal and Abreu are the starters a C, 1B, and DH so something’s gotta give there. If you were to replace a reliever with Joc and have him, Eloy, and Abreu rotate through DH, I don’t think you’d have much issue with matchups throughout the season. You could even go so far as to run a Garcia/Robert/Engel outfield with Eloy at DH if you really wanted to get Eaton and Joc out of the lineup against a tough lefty. I’d want a better backup catcher than Collins but I guess its sink or swim time for him as a prospect.
I don’t mind the idea of carrying three catchers with Mercedes/Collins getting a chance at DH to begin the year. Maybe someone performs better than expected, improving their trade value or maybe helping in a championship run. If they both fall flat, I think you can find an adequate defensive catcher midseason.
13.5 million AAV contract for Hendriks for ages 32, 33, 33, 34 for a closer is a little bit too risky.
Having said that, with all the flaws fWAR has for pitchers, Hendriks posted a whopping 3.9 fWAR in 2018! For a reliever!!!
Mo Rivera only passed 3 fWAR twice in his career, and his best was 3.2
Is there a reverse leap year coming up?
Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like the people complaining about this being an “overpay” are the same people complaining that the nerds are taking the fun out of baseball with all of their numbers. A really good player got paid (good for him!) and the Sox got better (good for us!). I fail to see the problem here unless you’re waiting on an inheritance from Jerry.
If you ever are feeling good about the Sox, just come to this comment section. You’ll come back down to earth pretty quickly. Lol
I’m not saying we all need to be 100% sunshine and rainbows (there are always interesting wrinkles to discuss), but if your only issue is “he cost too much” then you probably need to familiarize yourself with how the top of the FA market works (I know we Sox fans don’t have a ton of experience there, so it’s understandable).
Not at all. I get the built up frustration from the group. But the Sox signing the best closer on the market should be exciting and a positive. You come in here and it’s just not.
I for one love the signing. I don’t believe any of our young guys could have filled the closer role. One of the best things over the past 2 seasons was knowing we had a very effective closer who could be relied upon to get the last 3 outs. Colome’s stats and the Sox record after leading after the 9th bear this out. While the total amount paid is surprising and considerable when factoring in the market, it’s not our money. Plus with the market factors, the Sox are in prime position to pick up some short term quality players for a discount. Second tier Guys like Brantley or Quintana have to be getting nervous.
I’m with you…Agree 1000%. There is a general negative vibe to many of the commenters on SM. Although there are many quality, thoughtful comments to Jim’s well-written pieces, I have to wade through the excessive negativity to get to them. I, for one, am looking forward to watching a competitive team composed of a number of truly likeable players!
I’d be curious to know which people you all are seeing that are super negative on this? I see people crowing about the price tag, but that’s about it. I feel like pnoles is taking somewhat of a beating on Twitter just because he’s not like “Woooooo best move ever! Sox are a juggernaut! Hahn strikes again! World Series here we come!”
I just find it amazing that Jerry just ponied up and outbid a slew of teams for the best closer on the market, and almost all of the comments are negative. Let’s see what the White Sox have done so far this winter. They have traded for a starter who only cost $8 million for this year and who is probably one of the best 3 or 4 starters who are slotted at #3 in their rotation. The Eaton acquisition wasn’t great, but is a definite upgrade over Mazara. Now they added a top-notch closer. Who cares if Jerry overpaid? Everyone was complaining about how cheap he was, now they’re complaining that he’s spending too much money unwisely. I’m not inheriting any of it, so I hope he overpays for everyone.
Now compare that to what their rivals have done. Oakland just lost their top-notch closer, and they lost their shortstop. The Yankees are balking at resigning LeMahieu. The Rays traded their ace and lost their #2 starter. The Twins have lost 2 starters, 4 relievers and their DH, and have so far replaced them with…Hansel Robles? The Indians- no need to talk about them.
For all of you who are pissed off that Jerry hasn’t signed Springer AND Bauer AND traded Mike Trout for Zach Collins, get over it. If you’re a White Sox fan and Jerry is the owner, those things just aren’t going to happen, so don’t even waste your time thinking about them. Just celebrate the victories that we have so far. Right now, the Sox are probably the AL favorites. Of course the winter isn’t over with yet, but it sure seems like the other teams have channeled their inner Jerry and are playing cheap. And my guess is that the Sox aren’t done, and will add a 5th starter and another bat. It’s time to enjoy the small successes that the Sox have had this winter, because they have improved while all of their rivals have gotten worse so far.