Chicago White Sox: Liam Hendriks or Alex Colomé for closer?
With Alex Colomé hitting the market, the Chicago White Sox are looking for a closer.
I remember the Chicago White Sox losing whenever I went to a game. Sometimes they were close, but I remember a number of blow-outs as well. I have been to some winning games, but I was told about them. My memory allows me to go only as far back as the beginning of the end of Robin Ventura’s first season. Then, the 2019 season happened.
During that off-season, I bought season tickets for the first time. The White Sox finally had a team that could begin to contend. Fortunately for me, for the first time, I was making my own money, so I had the ability to see my favorite team. I was more than happy to spend my hard-earned money on a team I was proud of. For the first time, they started winning.
In 2019, I went to 12 games. The White Sox record in those 12 games was 11-1. I went from never witnessing a Sox win in-person to seeing eight straight to open the season. In those 11 wins, Alex Colomé saved seven of them. He helped create a winning culture on the south side again.
Colome symbolically became the image of a win in my head. When he was warming up, I was finally able to relax in the ninth. I grew up with Sergio Santos, Jake Petricka, and David Robertson. Finally, no more bleeding from the bullpen.
So I guess I have a bit of a bias when I say I want Colomé to come back. But then again, is it? I feel like in order for it to be biased, that player would have to be underperforming. But in this case, Colomé is lights out. He gets the job done every time.
At the expense of losing Omar Narváez, the Sox were able to upgrade where they needed to. In this role, Colomé has shined and the fans love him. In yet another important offseason for the White Sox and Colomé is a free agent. He is right there, he can come back just like that. There is someone else standing next to him. Someone who might even out-shine Colomé. Liam Hendriks is the best closer available on the market.
When young Hendriks came up with Minnesota in 2011, he struggled to find his footing. The Twins gave him three seasons but he never posted a sub 5.50 ERA. He signed with Kansas City in 2014 and he was okay. He ended that season as a Blue Jay with a 5.23 ERA which was at that point his career-best.
Next season would be Hendrik’s breakout year with Toronto. He posted a 2.92 ERA in 64 innings. With a WHIP of 1.08, things were looking up for Hendriks. However, he struggled in Oakland from 2016 to 2018. He was given five save opportunities as an Athletic up to that point but only recorded one save. With that said, 2019 was a different story.
Oakland trusted Hendriks as the closer full time, and their gamble paid off. In 2019, in 32 save opportunities, he recorded 25 in 85 innings. He shut opponents down with a 1.80 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, and a .201 collective batting average. 2020 was more of the same dominance. In 25 innings, he went 14/15 in saves with a 1.78 ERA. His ridiculous 0.67 WHIP and .161 oppBA is video-game-like.
So it’s obvious, right? Why sign Colomé when there is a better player available? The closer position is too thin. Solid back-end stuff is just hard to come by. It takes just as much mentally as physically and Hendriks clearly has the mentality to get through a jam.
Not that Colome does not have that mentality, we all know he does, but Hendrik’s 0.67 WHIP says he hardly gets into jams in the first place. I recall a number of games where Colomé closed with runners on second or third. They were wins but nerve-wracking wins. Eventually, the luck runs out and a once-dominant closer can get figured out.
Not to mention his star-appeal and name-recognition around the league. That has been a department the team has struggled with. The team were finally able to have a face of the franchise emerge in Tim Anderson, but the team’s recognition and reputation still lingers in the shadows. The team has made strides by forcing themselves into contender conversations, but adding an All-Star closer further solidifies the team’s ability to win it all.
On the other side, the case for Colomé comes down to one simple point. They don’t think the bullpen is a priority. Not as much, at least, as a right fielder or a left handed DH. So, bring back Colomé. He gets the job done with a smile on his face and everyone loves him. From what the fans see, the team looks up to him and follows his leadership.
There is a biased part of me that creeps up from the shadows. Every now and then it pops up and forces me to believe Addison Reed, if given the time, still could have been the guy. In this instance, it has convinced me with evidence and first-hand experience that Colomé is the guy.
Yes, Hendriks provides that extra layer of security that the ninth inning. With that said, were we Sox fans ever really scared with Colomé on the mound? No, he is not perfect, he will blow a save here or there, but so will Hendriks.
Not everyone has a famous cutter that still haunts the nightmares of some past big-leaguers, you know? This whole debate comes down to this simple question: do you get the fan-favorite who will shut the door or spend a little bit more on someone with a big name in the game right now?