Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has said the most likely course of action the team will take to upgrade the roster will be through trades and not the free agent market, although he wouldn't completely rule out signing a free agent. That being the case, one has to wonder who the candidates would be to bring the best value back.
The White Sox underperformed and underachieved last season and Hahn knows that bringing the band back together and hoping they play to what their believed potential will not be all it takes for them to make a run at winning a title.
"But again, we're committed to a handful of guys already based on the contracts that we've given out in the past. It doesn't mean they're necessarily all going to be here come Opening Day," Hahn said earlier this month.
Some of those contracts belong to the likes of Yoan Moncada and Yasmani Grandal, both of which have not put up the type of production equal to the value of the deals they signed previously. Each will make around $18 million for 2023 which makes them difficult to move unless the White Sox are willing to pick up a portion of those contracts.
Although the possibility exists the team may move a Gavin Sheets or Andrew Vaughn if the price is right, a player who might give them a very nice return would be pitcher Liam Hendriks.
The Chicago White Sox should consider all their options this off-season.
Although he is scheduled to make just over $14 million this season, Hendriks has proven to be one of the best closers in the game and, unlike Moncada and Grandal, has produced on a high-level year in and year out.
The three-time all-star has appeared in 127 games over the last two years with the White Sox, posting 75 saves and 199 strikeouts during that period. Hendriks led the league with 38 saves in 2021 while winning the Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year Award for the second time in a row.
Last year, Hendriks successfully closed out 37 games and was second in the American League to the Cleveland Guardians' Emmanuel Clase who had 42 saves.
Hendriks joined Clase and the Detroit Tigers Gregory Soto as the only AL closers to have over a 90 percent save rate. His strikeouts per nine innings total of 13.3 was the best in the AL and third overall behind Edwin Diaz (17.1) of the New York Mets and Josh Hader (15.6) when he pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers before heading to the San Diego Padres.
Following this coming season, the White Sox have a club option for Hendriks with a $15 million buyout. It is a steep price, but there may be teams out there who feel they need someone as close to being a lock-down closer that can get them over the top. Only eight closers finished with 30 or more saves and of that group five made it to the postseason.
Reynaldo Lopez had a very good season for the White Sox last year and could be viewed as a guy to take over the closer role should Hendriks be moved. While it seems the plan is for Hendriks to stay in his role with the club, it wouldn't hurt to kick the tires on seeing what the White Sox could possibly get in return for his services.
Following the re-signing of Diaz to the Mets for five years at $102 million, the market for quality closers could be reset. If that is the case, teams could view Hendriks as a bargain considering his productivity.
One interesting note about Hendriks' contract is it contains a 10-team no-trade clause in 2021 which dropped to five teams in 2022. He must submit a list of teams he cannot be traded to without his consent. It is not known which teams are on that list but it wouldn't hurt to explore options with teams he would be willing to go to.