It feels less and less likely that Liam Hendriks will return to the A's this offseason. Hendriks is far and away the best free-agent reliever on the open market, and plenty of big-name teams are showing interest in the closer.
ESPN's Jeff Passan referred to the Chicago White Sox Monday morning as Hendriks' "primary suitor." He also listed the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays as teams that have pursued Hendriks. All five teams are expected to be able to give Hendriks a larger contract than Oakland could.
Hendriks, who turns 32 years old in February, recently was named First-Team All-MLB for the 2020 season. He went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA last season. His 14 saves were the second-most in baseball. The A's closer even finished ninth in AL Cy Young Award voting.
The last two seasons, Hendriks has combined to go 7-5 with a 1.79 ERA over 99 regular-season appearances.
If Hendriks does find a new home, Jake Diekman is the leading candidate to take over as the A's closer next season. The veteran left-hander went 2-0 with a 0.42 ERA last season. He allowed one earned run in 21 appearances, and struck out 31 batters in 21 1/3 innings.
While it doesn't get much better than Hendriks at the end of games, the A's are lucky to already have a great in-house replacement.