Finally -- finally -- we have a big free agent signing. Or we will soon, anyway.
Late Monday as Alabama was taking a three-touchdown lead over Ohio State, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that the White Sox have signed Liam Hendriks. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the deal will pay $39 million over three seasons, and he'll either get $15 million in a club option or have that money paid out as a buyout over multiple years. Either way, it's a guaranteed $54 million.
It would be hard to overstate how good Hendriks has been the last two years. In 2019, he took over for Blake Treinen as the closer, and he registered a 1.80 ERA and sensational 124/21 K/BB ratio over 85 innings for the Athletics. He followed that campaign with a 1.78 ERA, 37/5 K/BB ratio and saved 14 games despite making only 60 appearances in the truncated season. While his exit velocity allowed suggests that there might be a little bit of good luck, the rest of his metrics are all in the red, and his ability to miss bats and not issue walks is as good as it gets.
The fit with the White Sox is as close to perfect as you can get, even if he's heading to a home park that's more offensive friendly than his previous one. The White Sox have one of the best lineups and starting rotations in baseball, and with all due respect to Alex Colome -- who was more than competent as the closer the last two years -- this is a substantial upgrade.
There's no denying that relievers carry a good deal of volatility. We've seen dominant relievers look like mediocre (or worst) ones from year-to-year, and it's worth pointing out that Hendriks was nowhere close to an elite option before the 2019 campaign. All of that being said, as long as he's a semblance of the pitcher we've seen the last two years, Hendriks is going to miss a lot of bats, initiate plenty of weak contact, and pile up the saves at the same time. At least on paper, there's an awful lot to like about Hendriks pitching for the Pale Hose -- assuming you're not a fan of another team in the AL Central.
Big Bat Lands with Nats
The free agent market still is barely budging in terms of movement, even with Hendriks signing, but we did see a castoff of the Cubs find a new home on Saturday.
The Nationals signed outfielder Kyle Schwarber to a one-year, $10 million contract. Schwarber, 27 until March, was the fourth-overall pick out of the University of Indiana back in 2014, and while he put up some big offensive numbers for the Cubs in his six sears in Chicago, the club decided to non-tender him late in the year rather than give him a raise on the $7,010,000 he made in 2019.
If just looking at the numbers from 2020, it’d be easy to wonder why the Nationals would make an eight-figure investment in Schwarber for a year; he hit just .188 and posted an OPS of .701 during the season. It would be a mistake to generalize just based on those numbers, however. Not only was 2020 a season with a short ramp-up and a campaign that created automatic small samples, Schwarber’s bad year was really just the case of a bad month. From September 1 on, he hit .130/.272/.324 in 77 at-bats -- a number that is nearly half of his season total -- and he finished with a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of an impossibly low .154. The previous season, Schwarber hit 38 homers with an OPS of .871, and that’s more indicative of his offensive ability than a sample of 59 games this summer.
There are reasons for concerns with Schwarber, however, outside of his poor performance in limited action last year. He’s a better athlete than people give him credit for in terms of speed, but there aren’t many outfielders who do a worse job of getting jumps on the baseball, and in an ideal world, Schwarber would be the designated hitter for the Nationals rather than playing left field. It’s also worth noting that as good as Juan Soto is with the bat, he’s not exactly Roberto Clemente in the right field, either. Victor Robles can go get it in center, but it’s fair to say the Washington outfield defense will not be among the best in baseball.
And Schwarber has his offensive deficiencies, as well. He strikes out a ton, and asking for more than a .250 average -- without a significant amount of BABIP luck -- is asking too much. He’s also struggled against left-handed pitching with a career slash of .197/.301/.348 against southpaws compared to .239/.345/.514 against righties.
Schwarber certainly has his flaws, but there’s no denying his power, and he should be able to help the Nationals and fantasy players with his pop and ability to draw a decent share of walks. It’s just nice to see a player sign, if being honest.
Lindor ‘not against’ signing extension with Mets
Lindor held his virtual press conference on Monday, and of course, the status of his contract came up, as the star shortstop is set to hit free agency at the end of the season.
"I have never been against an extension," Lindor said when asked about possibly staying with the Mets. "It just has to make sense on both sides.''
While New York didn’t exactly break the bank in terms of talens traded to Cleveland for Lindor and Carrasco -- all due respect to the players that were shipped to the AL Central -- it’s probably fair to say that the Mets likely made this move with an eye on keeping the shortstop long-term. The question now is what kind of contract it would take to keep the 27-year-old in the Big Apple going forward. Xander Boegarts is the highest paid shortstop in baseball right now at $20 million a year, and it seems likely that the Mets will have to go substantially higher than that to keep him hanging out with Mr. Met.
Steve Cohen has said all the right things about spending money to make the Mets a contender. The Lindor case gives him a chance to literally (ish) put his money where his mouth is.
Tatis Jr. may -- or may not -- be close to extension
And speaking of elite shortstops who might be getting paid. On Friday, it was reported that Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Padres were discussing a massive new deal. And by massive, we’re talking an 11-year, $320 million extension that would keep the wunderkind in San Diego for the majority of his career.
On Monday, however, that report was quashed by Bob Nightengale of USA Today -- sort of, anyway. Nightengale reported that the two sides have not talked extension just yet, but did note that the two sides were expected to begin discussions before the start of spring training.
What exactly Tatis Jr. gets is up in the air a bit, but it’s going to be a lot, and for good reason. He just turned 22 at the beginning of the month, and he’s already flashed -- and flashed is really an understatement -- the ability to be the best player at not only his position, but potentially the best in the sport. It is hard to imagine that Tatis Jr. will be wearing anything but Padres’ colors for the next decade or so.
Red Sox Benintendi-ng to trade Andrew?
It’d be fair to say that Andrew Benintendi hasn’t been a disaster in his time with the Red Sox, but it’s also fair to say that the former top prospect in baseball hasn’t lived up to expectations, either. Now, there’s a chance that if he ever does live up to that stature, it won’t be in Boston. Jim Bowden The Athletic reports that the Red Sox have been “in serious trade talks with multiple teams” in regards to a deal for Benintendi.
It was a lost season for many, but the 2020 campaign for Benintendi will not be one he looks back on fondly. He was only able to play in 14 games, and he hit just .103 with a .442 OPS in 52 plate appearances when he wasn’t dealing with a rib injury. The 2019 season was better, but a .266/.343/.431 line with 13 homers and 10 steals was disappointing; especially after hitting 15 homers and stealing 20 bases each in the previous two seasons. One of the teams mentioned by Bowden on Monday was the Marlins, but there doesn’t appear to be anything close to being done at this point.
Benintendi’s talent is obvious, and he doesn’t turn 27 until July. That being said, it’s been a minute or two since we’ve seen him truly succeed, and there’s definitely a decent amount of risk that goes along with the award.
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Quick Hits: Rusney Castillo signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball … Phillies acquired RHP Sam Coonrod from the Giants for RHP Carson Ragsdale … Korean outfielder Sung-Bum Na will return to the KBO after failing to reach an agreement with an MLB team … La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports there’s been a lack of consistent contact between the Twins and free agent Nelson Cruz … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that "the belief and expectation" is that the Mets will move Seth Lugo back to the bullpen in 2021 … Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports that free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu has told his representatives to begin negotiations with other clubs. LeMahieu has reportedly grown frustrated with the Yankees and the slow movement towards a new deal … Manny Ramirez was released by the Sydney Blue Sox … Heyman reports that the Nationals are not willing to trade pitching prospects Mason Denaburg or Cade Cavalli for Eugenio Suarez.