The White Sox got an up-close look at Liam Hendriks during their brief stay in the postseason. Apparently they’d like to see him on a far more regular basis.
According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the White Sox — who have been busy this week, crossing off their top two offseason needs with a trade for starting pitcher Lance Lynn and a reunion with right fielder Adam Eaton — are eyeing Hendriks as a splash addition to their bullpen.
Nightengale wrote that the White Sox would like to add a closer to replace free-agent Alex Colomé and that the White Sox “have their sight set on” Hendriks, who starred in the ninth inning for the Oakland Athletics the last two seasons, posting a microscopic 1.79 ERA and recording 39 saves in 99 appearances in 2019 and 2020.
Certainly the White Sox don’t need those numbers to remind them how good Hendriks is. After taking advantage of A’s manager Bob Melvin’s decision to leave Hendriks in to throw 49 pitches in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series, they were blown away by Hendriks in the decisive third game of the series, three of the four batters they sent to the plate in the ninth inning striking out against the flamethrowing closer.
Colomé’s return has been speculated about as an option for the White Sox this winter. He was nearly automatic the last two seasons on the South Side, turning in an especially effective 2020 campaign in which he allowed just two earned runs all year — good for a 0.81 ERA — and converted 12 of his 13 save chances.
But the free-agent market is not short on potential ninth-inning solutions, with Hendriks and Colomé joined by Brad Hand, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, as well as the recently non-tendered Archie Bradley, who hasn’t closed much in his big league career but has been good enough to earn a shot.
However, the White Sox don’t exactly need to go out and spend on a free-agent closer. They have an ample amount of talented arms in the ‘pen who could slide into the closer’s role if necessary. Aaron Bummer is chief among them, and his long-term contract extension in the spring perhaps pointed to him as Colomé’s heir apparent. Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer, Matt Foster and even this year’s first-round draft pick Garrett Crochet all pitched well in late-inning situations in 2020.
But with the White Sox making dependability a priority this winter ahead of a 2021 season with championship expectations, there’s certainly an allure to adding a proven ninth-inning man like Hendriks or Colomé, in addition to keeping all those other pitchers in the roles they flourished in this past season.
“I certainly understand the logic behind wanting that sort of security or safety net, so to speak, or known quantity, at least,” general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s a must. I think having enough quality arms down there and a manager like Tony (La Russa), who knows how to mix and match a bullpen, certainly could be very effective.
“It’s also an area that we’ll continue to explore here over the coming weeks.”