Liam Hendriks' wild Red Sox contract shows trust in team's pitching development

Jul 14, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Liam Hendriks  (31) in the
Jul 14, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Liam Hendriks (31) in the / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox have quickly and unexpectedly filled relief pitcher John Schreiber's spot in the bullpen on the morning of Feb. 19. But not for a while.

The Red Sox signed former White Sox Liam Hendriks, per Chris Cotillo and Sean McAdam of MassLive. The Australian native signed a two-year, $10 million deal, with the chance to earn up to $20 million through incentives, along with a mutual option for the 2026 campaign.

Hendriks will be unable to pitch right away as he underwent Tommy John surgery this offseason. He is expected to be able to pitch late in the upcoming season, but he's still at Fenway South getting ready with the club. Since Hendriks is on the injured list for the time being, the spot on the 40-man roster recently vacated by Schreiber is still open and the Red Sox have room to sign another player for the upcoming season, or at least until Hendriks is ready to pitch.

Despite his injury status, Boston and chief baseball officer Craig Breslow have been able to secure Hendriks' services for a bargain. He signed with Chicago in early 2021 for three years at $54 million with a club option for 2024. The White Sox declined his option, and the Red Sox jumped on the opportunity to capitlize on a high-profile and elite pitcher who's currently rehabbing.

The Red Sox have signed former White Sox, A's reliever Liam Hendriks

Hendriks is most widely known for his public fight with stage-four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2023. The righty left the White Sox organization with the diagnosis in April and returned in August to pitch late in the season. Hendriks won the American League Comeback Player of the Year award for his resilience.

The 35-year-old is an MLB veteran with an impressive career under his belt. Hendriks has pitched to a career 3.82 ERA with 727 strikeouts over 13 seasons. He's earned three All-Star nods, Cy Young Award votes in 2020 and 2021 and MVP votes in 2020.

Hendriks' 2023 numbers aren't the best of his career for a few reasons outside of the pitcher's control. He only made five appearances after his return from his battle with cancer before being sidelined again due to elbow inflammation. In his two-year stint with the White Sox before 2023, Hendriks logged a 2.66 ERA in 198 strikeouts in 128.2 innings.

And this is where Breslow can make his money. He brought in Andrew Bailey this offseason to lead the Sox's pitching staff, and Hendriks marks the second injured pitcher (Michael Fulmer came first). The team is being entrusted to get the most out of former All-Stars, which is certainly a gamble, but it's better than the Sox's usual strategy of doing nothing.

On the injured list or not, Hendriks will make a good addition to Boston's roster. He's an experienced player that other members of the club can rally around and learn from. When he eventually lands on the active roster, he'll hopefully be back to his usual self — an electric reliever with strikeout stuff.

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