Liam Hendriks set the bar for relievers the Red Sox might chase
The Boston Red Sox have been widely known to be in the market for bullpen help this offseason. While the array of players they had been checking in on was unclear, one of the better free-agent relievers came off the board last night with a contract that had some evaluators do a double-take. The big-money deal begs the question, how will this transaction affect the relief market moving forward?
Liam Hendriks, a reliever who had gone from roster casualty to All-Star, is now off the board. Oakland’s former closer signed a contract with the Chicago White Sox worth $54 million over four years with a buy-out option for the fourth year (worth $15 million.) This deal clearly turned some heads as it is one of the highest contract ever handed out to a relief pitcher. This contract surely leaves some questions unanswered including the fate of other pitchers on the open market.
For the most part, this deal seems like a win-now and aggressive move by the White Sox. A signing of this magnitude for a non-starter is unlikely to be replicated by another team this offseason, especially a fringe contender like the Red Sox.
It is worth noting that Rob Manfred’s recent announcement that Major League Baseball intends to play a full 162 game season likely played a significant role in getting a deal done. With spring training expected to start on time, more teams will likely follow suit and start spending on the open market considering a majority of the league has been in idle mode waiting to make many impactful signings.
The Red Sox have allegedly checked in on or been a runner-up for a majority of the players that have changed hands via free agency or trade. With the 31-year-old Hendriks receiving such a pricey contract to pitch out of the bullpen, especially in a time of uncertainty, it’s only fair to wonder what to expect going forward. Will other players with similar numbers attempt to drive up their asking price? Probably not, given the fact that it took this long to bring the deal to fruition. Given the pace of the market, it’s doubtful that any closer will sign for a sum remotely close to what Hendriks received this week.
Speaking of the White Sox and relievers, current free-agent and former Chicago closer Alex Colome seemingly just got ushered out of the South Side with the team’s acquisition of Hendriks. FanSided’s Robert Murray had reported in early January that the Red Sox were among three teams interested in the 32-year-old’s service. Today, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand made it clear that Colome was no longer an option in Chicago.
As noted above, all three teams that had initially expressed interest in the reliever have a former connection with him. A stand-out closer in his own right, Colome is likely to find a new home in short order now that the biggest domino on the closing market has signed.
For what it’s worth, Blake Treinen (who also happens to be 32-years-old) recently resigned with the Dodgers to a two-year deal worth $17.5 million (and a third-year club option for $8 million.) Treinen’s deal could be a model for the type of deal that Boston could offer Colome if they so choose to take a pricier route in reinforcing their bullpen.
Other names like Brad Hand and Archie Bradley still remain as players to keep an eye on. The aftermath of Hendriks signing could finally create the domino effect that the relief department of the free-agent market has been waiting for. SNY’s Andy Martino reported earlier today that the Mets were expressing interest in Hand. The ripple effect has officially begun and while Hand is unlikely to receive as much money as Hendriks secured, it is a clear indicator that Boston should get more aggressive on the free-agent market as the relief market is likely to take off.
Now would be a perfect time for the Red Sox to pounce on the relief market and see if any long relievers could be had for a decent price. The market still has plenty of names that can be impactful to a Boston team that reflected poor results out of the bullpen.