Even in a sub-optimal market, former All-Star closer Liam Hendriks projects to do well in free agency this offseason.
Over the past two years, FanGraphs says that Hendriks has been the most valuable reliever in baseball, racking up 39 saves and posting a 1.66 ERA. That production likely means that the 31-year-old has priced himself out of Oakland, though a slew of contenders figure to have interest in his services.
Even though he'll celebrate his 32nd birthday before the start of the 2021 season, Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has projected that Hendriks will land a three-year/$30 million deal this winter.
Here's a look at five potential landing spots for one of the game's elite relievers:
Even with J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius set to hit free agency, Joe Girardi was relatively blunt after the Phillies were eliminated from playoff contention in 2020 - the team needs to improve what was a historically-bad bullpen. Granted, the Phillies have had bad luck with signing relievers on the wrong side of 30 - Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter and David Robertston - in recent years, but they need to make multiple impact additions to their bullpen if they hope to contend in 2021. Hendriks should be at the forefront of the organization's wishlist this winter.
Los Angeles Angels
With Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, the Angels have a starting lineup that's ready to compete for a World Series right now. Yet, the organization missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season in 2020, a sign of how far their pitching lags behind their offensive prowess. Impact starting pitching is the most pressing need for Joe Maddon's squad, which is why we've suggested they would be good fits for Trevor Bauer and/or Blake Snell. That said, the Angels also need to solidify the back-end of their bullpen, and swiping Hendriks from a division rival would certainly go a long way towards doing that. The Angels may not be as obvious a fit for Hendriks as the Phillies, but for a team desperate to win now, he makes quite a bit of sense.
After winning the World Series in 2019, the Nationals slipped into a tie for last place in a competitive National League in 2020. Part of that was because they failed to replace Anthony Rendon and 2020 turned into a lost season for former World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, but certainly the team didn't get the production out of Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson that they had hoped for. Doolittle is now a free agent, and replacing him with another former Athletic in Hendriks would make quite a bit of sense if the Nationals are hoping to compete in a crowded division next season. It may be that the team's window with Max Scherzer has closed, but if they're able to add an impact bat and sign Hendriks, the Nationals could certainly make noise next season.
San Francisco Giants
By finishing just two games under .500 in 2020, Gabe Kapler's Giants overachieved, though the team's bullpen certainly wasn't a strength. At this stage of the team's progression, a veteran closer may be a bit of a luxury, though it's certainly a pressing need if the team wants to stand any chance of winning a Wild Card spot in the next few seasons. As RADIO.COM MLB Insider Jon Heyman said, the team may be more likely to pursue an impact starter, such as Trevor Bauer. There is a need at closer, though, and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi would probably stand a good chance at flipping Hendriks if the team isn't able to contend in the coming seasons.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Between Dylan Floro, Brusdar Graterol, Adam Kolarek and Victor Gonzalez, the Dodgers had one of the sport's best bullpens in 2020. However, Dave Roberts probably didn't envision handing the ball to Julio Urias to close out the World Series. Kenley Jansen had a strong regular season and remains under contract for $20 million in 2021, though he may not be the same workhorse he once was at this stage of his career. The most likely scenario is that the Dodgers opt to sign some cheaper free agents, although adding Hendriks would set them up to potentially defend their World Series title.