In a season filled with uneven play and underperforming players, there was no better story for the White Sox than Liam Hendriks’ triumphant return to the mound after defeating stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Hendriks’ return was a rare highlight for the White Sox, who had fallen below . 500 while trying to turn things around on the south side.
As we head into trade season, it’s hard not to wonder: Could the White Sox really trade Hendriks to a competitor? do they?
“Nice stories are always attractive,” said one American League executive, “but you pay to win games.” “If he’s performing at his usual level, he’s a very viable acquisition.”
Chicago entered Sunday play only 4 1/2 games behind the Twins in first place in a tepid AL Central, so it’s not certain that general manager Rick Hahn will sell the pieces by the August 1 trade deadline — or if owner Jerry Reinsdorf will let him do so. .
Hendrix is 34 years old and wants to promote a winning team. When he signed his $54 million, three-year deal with the White Sox prior to the 2021 season, Chicago was fresh in postseason appearances, returning to the playoffs with the AL Central title that season.
But an 81-81 record in 2022 left the Sox on the outside looking in October, and a 29-37 record this year — despite a relatively small club spread in the division — is a sign that Chicago isn’t ready for it. Compete with the best teams in the AL.
Hendriks’ contract includes a $15 million option for 2024, which, if rejected by Chicago, converts to a deferred warranty at the same price, with the club paying Hendriks $1.5 million annually for the next ten years. If Hendriks is traded, that option becomes secured for 2024, so basically any acquired team would be tied up as soon as next season for a total of about $23 million.
That’s a reasonable deal for someone who posted a 2.26 ERA and 114 saves between 2019-22, so as long as Hendriks pitches well over the next seven or eight weeks, contenders around the league have an interest in acquiring his services.
Will Hendrix’s trade lead to bad PR for the front office in Chicago? Given what he and his story have meant to this team and its fans this season, would the Sox risk backlash if they shipped Hendriks out of town?
Another AL executive said, “In general, the front desks consider off-field impact and club sentiment, but they are usually secondary to field value and financial value of the deal.” “There’s a great way to trade it in if that’s what they want to do.”
That agile approach likely includes keeping Hendriks — who can veto trades to five undisclosed teams — in the loop during trade talks. If the White Sox choose to transfer a number of players this summer, it would be easy to sell Hendriks to send him to an opposing team with whom he can compete for a post-season spot.
“Keep him posted,” said the AL’s second official. “They can finally explain to the fans that this is a move that benefits the organization with an influx of talent for the future and also Liam with the chance to play a competitor late in his career. It doesn’t have to be chaotic.”
We probably won’t know for several weeks if the White Sox will be a seller, but if they do, Hendriks will be a great name to watch.
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