TODAY: Hendriks’ contract is broken down by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). The closer will receive a $1MM signing bonus, $11MM in 2021, $13MM in 2022, $14MM in 2023, and then the $15MM option/buyout for 2024. The option will automatically vest if Hendriks is traded.
Jan. 15: The White Sox have formally announced the signing of Hendriks to a four-year, $54MM contract. Chris Hatfield of SoxProspects.com and Joel Sherman of the New York Post point out an interesting wrinkle in the unique structure of Hendriks’ contract (Twitter link): for luxury-tax purposes, the fourth year comes with a zero-dollar hit. Because Hendriks is guaranteed the full $54MM even over a three-year term, the first three years will come with an $18MM hit (dipped slightly because of the 10-year deferrals if the option is bought out).
The White Sox have never flirted with the luxury barrier, but it’s notable in the event that they increase their spending in future years or in the event that another club wants to borrow the concept for future dealings. Of course, with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire next December, it could be rendered a moot point; it’s possible that new luxury limits and/or new means of determining luxury penalization will be bargained.
Jan. 12: If the White Sox don’t pick up Hendriks’ $15MM option for the 2024 season, they’ll pay him a buyout of that same value but defer it over a 10-year period, tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. That’s an unprecedented structure for a club option that affords the ChiSox the opportunity for substantial up-front cost savings while still guaranteeing Hendriks the full freight of the $54MM — even if the actual present-day value of the contract is weighed down by the potential deferrals.
Jan. 11: The White Sox have reached an agreement with free-agent reliever Liam Hendriks, pending a physical, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports. It’s a three-year, $54MM guarantee with a club option for a fourth season, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Both the option and buyout are worth $15MM, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, so the right-handed Hendriks will earn that money regardless of how long he’s part of the team. Passan adds that the White Sox would be able to pay the buyout over multiple years. Hendriks is a client of ALIGND Sports Agency.
So far, this is the largest guarantee given to any free agent during what has been a slow-moving offseason. It comes as a surprise when considering how the winter opened for relievers, as Cleveland waived star closer Brad Hand in lieu of paying him a $10MM option for 2021 and no other team claimed him. After that, it would have been easy expect relievers to continue faring somewhat poorly this offseason, but Hendriks will be paid handsomely. In fact, his deal blows past the three-year, $30MM prediction MLBTR made for him before the offseason.
Just a couple of years ago, it would have been almost impossible to imagine Hendriks at this point. The Athletics outrighted him in July 2018, but he came back with a vengeance as a member of the team that September and carried it over into the 2019 and ’20 campaigns. Hendriks was the majors’ most effective late-game arm during that span, as he pitched to a 1.66 ERA with a similarly astounding 33.1 percent strikeout-walk percentage, piled up 39 saves out of 47 chances, and won American League Reliever of the Year honors in 2020.
Based on what he has done in recent seasons, the 31-year-old Hendriks looks like an enormous loss for the A’s – who didn’t give the hurler a qualifying offer after they knocked off the White Sox in the first round of last fall’s playoffs – and a massive pickup for Chicago. The White Sox earned their first trip to the postseason since 2008 last season, and they’re one of the few teams in baseball that have been active since then. Assuming the Hendriks deal goes through, he’ll be their third noteworthy pickup of the offseason, joining starter Lance Lynn and outfielder Adam Eaton.
Also a former Twin, Royal and Blue Jay, Hendriks should be in line to take over for free agent Alex Colome as Chicago’s closer. The Australia native will be the highest-profile member of a White Sox relief corps that finished seventh in the majors in ERA (3.76) last year, when holdovers Evan Marshall, Aaron Bummer, Matt Foster and Codi Heuer turned in terrific results. With Hendriks coming in, Chicago’s bullpen could be even better in 2021.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.