When Rick Hahn laid out the areas his front office was looking to address this offseason, he talked about right field, the DH spot and the starting rotation.
But remember last offseason? When Hahn surprised everyone by making the team’s biggest acquisition of the winter a catcher?
Yes, the White Sox are capable of going off the board, so to speak, and despite a very strong bullpen returning many talented pieces from the 2020 edition in 2021, perhaps spending on a free-agent closer ahead of a season with championship expectations isn’t the craziest suggestion.
And though attempting to bring back Alex Colomé, the White Sox ninth-inning man of the last two seasons, would seem a sound strategy, there’s more than one top-of-the-line closer on the market this winter. None might be more top-of-the-line than Liam Hendriks.
The White Sox and their fans got a good look at Hendriks during the best-of-three AL Wild Card Series against the Oakland Athletics. A’s manager Bob Melvin made the curious decision to have his closer chuck 49 pitches in Game 2, then Hendriks went back out in Game 3 and struck out three of the four hitters he faced to close out the series.
That final inning was a pretty good representation of his 2020 campaign as a whole. Hendriks was excellent, with a 1.78 ERA and 14 saves. In 2019, he posted a 1.80 ERA and saved 25 games in an All-Star season.
So do the White Sox truthfully need a free-agent closer like Hendriks? It depends on how ready for prime time they think guys like Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer and Matt Foster are. Is one of those guys capable of taking over in the ninth? Probably. The long-term contract Bummer got last spring might have signaled him as Colomé’s heir apparent.
But the White Sox bullpen, which was excellent in 2020, thanks largely to the contributions of those four guys, would figure to be better if those four pitchers could continue to dominate in their current roles. The win-now White Sox have established they’re on the hunt for dependability this winter. Bringing in a proven ninth-inning man like Hendriks would accomplish that task rather than open up a potential midseason need.
The bullpen’s a strength on the South Side. And with Hendriks added to the mix, the White Sox could keep it that way.