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MLB Roundup 1/12: White Sox sign Liam Hendriks

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The top reliever is off the board.

Division Series - Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros - Game Three Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

White Sox sign Liam Hendriks

As Red Sox fans know all too well, the starting pitching market isn’t exactly deep this year. There are a few solid names available, but overall it’s an underwhelming group. The reliever market, on the other hand, seems to have a lot more appealing candidates. Among the available relievers, though, Liam Hendriks clearly stood out above everyone else. Well, that clear number one reliever in the class is now off the market, as the White Sox swooped in Monday night to sign him to a three-year deal with a fourth year option and $54 million guaranteed.

The contract itself is a very interesting one and, frankly, unlike any I can remember seeing. The first three years are straight forward, with Hendriks being due $39 million over those three guaranteed seasons. But for the fourth season, both the salary and the buy out are worth $15 million, so the overall contract doesn’t change at all regardless of whether or not they pick up the option. If they decline it, however, the money is spread out over a few years. It’s strange, and for us, as we typically look at things through the lens of how the luxury tax is affected, it wouldn’t make a difference either way.

Beyond the contract and looking at the pitcher himself, this is more than I was expecting Hendriks to get. It’s been a very strange market this year, with players honestly actually getting a bit more than I thought they would on average. It’s even weirder that this deal happened but no one wanted Brad Hand for one year and $10 million. All that said, the White Sox are in clear win-now mode and that is the exact type of team that should be going the extra mile to get elite help in the late innings. That’s what Hendriks is. The righty has two straight seasons with both his ERA and FIP coming in below 2.00, and right now he is probably the best reliever in the game. That is a title that can change quickly, of course, but he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down.

As for how this affects the Red Sox, they never seemed likely to go after Hendriks unless his market cratered, and it sure doesn’t appear that was the case. So, with that assumption, this is good for Boston. For one, it’s now less likely Chicago brings back Alex Colomé, to whom Boston has already been connected. More generally, when the top free agent market comes off the board for any positional group, there’s always a chance the rest of the players at that position start to sign quickly. There’s no guarantee of that, especially in this offseason, but perhaps we’ll start to see Boston’s plan in the bullpen a little more clearly throughout the rest of this week.