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It’s official: White Sox sign Liam Hendriks

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And boy, it’s a doozy: four years, $54 million

Wild Card Round - Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics - Game Two
Even Liam Hendriks can’t quite believe the White Sox agreed to the fourth year in his recently-signed deal.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Long-rumored, promised by this very site as recently as eight days ago, Liam Hendriks agreed to a four-year, $54 million deal with the White Sox on Monday, as broken late by Tim Brown of Yahoo.

The deal was made official on Friday.

“With the acquisition of Liam, we are adding another premium talent to our core group of players,” GM Rick Hahn said in the White Sox release announcing the deal. “Liam is someone of outstanding character and makeup who will be an asset both on the field and in the clubhouse. He gives Tony and Ethan another weapon to make our bullpen even deeper and more versatile.”

I got a tip early Monday that the deal was imminent. That source expressed some shock that the dollars had climbed well into the $50 million range, when MLBTR’s estimates tracked Hendriks as a three-year, $30 million guy.

The narrative circulating is that that White Sox felt they had a deal a week ago — note our rushed, Sunday-night story that was meant to break this news likely last Monday or Tuesday. Then, the White Sox heard back that the deal wasn’t in the bag. Whether this was gamesmanship (try to get the Sox to bid against themselves) or a late-breaking mystery team entering the bidding, the price was driven up, perhaps by a year and another $15 million.

The bizarre wrinkle to this contract is the fourth year. It’s a team option, but the White Sox have to pay Hendriks either way — cut him and issue a $15 million check, or up his salary from $13 million to $15 in his fourth year, at age 34.

The guess here is a fourth year wasn’t part of the original deal — at least not a $15 million one. The White Sox had to agree to a fourth year that would essentially guarantee Hendricks the full $54 million even if the 31-year-old flamed out in catastrophic fashion. Not the best deal for the White Sox, but a move that pushes chips to the middle of the table, no doubt.

Jeff Passan of ESPN has explained the bizarre fourth year in language that is easier to understand: If the White Sox see Hendriks turn into Kelvin Herrera by year three, they get to split that $15 million out over several years (say, five years of $3 million payments). Small recompense, but for a team that should clearly be feeling some salary weight in 2024, any relief would be welcome.

At any rate, the White Sox get their new closer, and managed to sidestep this image as Liam Hendriks’ debut photoshop:

This Imaginarium of Liam Hendriks is courtesy of our friends at DRays Bay.

The full/copyedited Friday press release from the White Sox is below:

WHITE SOX AGREE TO TERMS ON FOUR-YEAR CONTRACT WITH ALL-STAR CLOSER LIAM HENDRIKS

CHICAGO — The Chicago White Sox have agreed to terms on a four-year, $54-million contract with free agent All-Star closer Liam Hendriks, which includes a $1 million signing bonus.

Under terms of the agreement, Hendriks, 31, will receive $11 million in 2021, $13 million in 2022 and $14 million in 2023, with the White Sox holding a $15 million option or $15 million buyout for 2024. If the club option is declined, the buyout will be paid in 10 equal installments between 2024 and 2033.

Hendriks, 6´ and 230 pounds, was named to the All-MLB First Team in 2020 and tied for ninth in the AL Cy Young Award voting after going 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA, 14 saves, 37 strikeouts, a 0.67 WHIP and just three walks and one home run allowed over 24 appearances with Oakland. The A’s went 23-1 in games when he pitched.

Hendriks ranked among the AL relief leaders in saves (2nd), WHIP (2nd), walks per 9.0 IP (2nd, 1.07), opponents on-base percentage (2nd, .187), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2nd, 12.33), opponents OPS (3rd, .405), save percentage (4th, 93.3), strikeouts per 9.0 IP (7th, 13.14) and ERA (11th).

“With the acquisition of Liam, we are adding another premium talent to our core group of players,” said Rick Hahn, White Sox senior vice president/general manager. “Liam is someone of outstanding character and makeup who will be an asset both on the field and in the clubhouse. He gives Tony and Ethan another weapon to make our bullpen even deeper and more versatile.”

Hendriks owns the lowest ERA in the major leagues since 2019 (minimum 100 innings) at 1.79, and his 0.90 WHIP ranks third. His 5.2 fWAR during that span also is the best among MLB relievers.

Since taking over as the A’s closer on June 21, 2019, Hendriks has recorded a 1.99 ERA with 39 saves, 111 strikeouts and a 0.79 WHIP in 65 appearances. His 39 saves during that span are six more than any other pitcher in baseball (Josh Hader is next with 33), and he has averaged 14.69 strikeouts and 0.93 walks (seven walks) per 9.0 IP with a 15.86 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

With the addition of Hendriks, four current White Sox pitchers finished in the Top 10 of the AL Cy Young Award voting in 2020. Teammates Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito were fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.

Hendriks, a native of Perth, Australia, originally was signed by Minnesota as a non-drafted free agent on Feb. 25, 2007. He has gone 19-27 with a 4.10 ERA, 40 saves and 526 strikeouts in 344 appearances (44 starts) over 10 seasons in the major leagues with the Twins (2011-13), Toronto (2014-15), Kansas City (2014) and Oakland (2016-20).

Hendriks has appeared in eight postseason games, including three with the A’s in 2020, and he was an AL All-Star in 2019.

Hendriks will wear uniform No. 31. He will become the second Australian-born pitcher to play for the White Sox, joining right-handed pitcher Shane Lindsay (Melbourne), who made four appearances in 2011.