The Cubs have been connected to former White Sox closer Liam Hendriks, who would likely require a two-year rehab deal due to an elbow reconstruction back last August, and such a deal could come together soon. It doesn’t make much sense to sign an injured player to a guaranteed deal when you’ve got a full 40-man roster, but the math changes when the 60-day IL becomes an option with pitchers and catchers reporting. Hendriks could sign and immediately be placed on the IL to remove him from the roster count, then he could head to Mesa to work with the pitching folks.
Ed. note: In a correction to the above, there would have to be a corresponding move in order to sign Hendriks or, as some have noted, Brandon Woodruff.
This idea has been making the rounds lately and it feels like something Jed Hoyer would be keen on.
We’re only a few days away from 60-day IL opening up allowing for more roster flexibility. Signing Liam Hendriks could be a good win/win for the Cubs and Hendriks who can then stay in Chicago and follow with his same doctors. https://t.co/yhagTWVEqX
— Greg Zumach (@IvyFutures) February 11, 2024
The Cubs are the only team to have been publicly linked to Hendriks thus far, and a deal makes a lot of sense for him because he can stay in Chicago. He told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin back in December that his goal is to return by the trade deadline, which would be right at a year from his surgery. That’s incredibly optimistic, but Hendricks is no stranger to recovery.
He was named AL Comeback Player of the Year for 2023 after winning a battle with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Though he managed just five innings in as many games at the big-league level, he was still touching triple digits even with a torn UCL. Hendriks’ average fastball, however, was down two ticks from the last couple of seasons to 95.5 mph.
This would be a pretty low-risk deal all things considered and it would give the Cubs a possible late-inning veteran while maintaining flexibility this year.
Keeping an eye on Cubs and Liam Hendriks as the 60-day IL date opens Wednesday. They’ve been only team he’s been publicly connected to, they’re looking for vet types in the pen + it allows him to stay in Chicago.
Sign Hendriks -> 60-day him -> Sign Stanek is a realistic outcome
— FullCountTommy (@FullCountTommy) February 12, 2024
They want that flexibility to keep adding to the bullpen, something GM Carter Hawkins said the front office would do on an “opportunistic” basis. Hirsute righty Ryne Stanek has been linked to the Cubs more than once this offseason and will probably only command a one-year deal, so that could be a great fit. Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney also noted that the Cubs had shown interest in righty Jakob Junis before he signed with the Brewers.
Exactly how serious they were isn’t known, but they do seem to be on the lookout for versatile options who could work out of the rotation and/or the bullpen. Even though Hawkins was pretty adamant about not going with a six-man rotation, all signs point toward Craig Counsell‘s team staff being used creatively to stretch out the five main guys.
That could be why the Cubs are among the teams “keeping tabs on” Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen, both of whom are drawing interest as camps begin to open. They may be in the same boat as Hendriks when it comes to finding an open roster spot first, though some pitchers may even have to wait until injuries occur during the spring. Syndergaard has worked almost exclusively as a starter while Lorenzen worked primarily as a reliever for the Reds before transitioning back to the rotation over the last two seasons.
As we’ve repeated over and over this offseason, it’ll all come down to whether and when some of these players’ contract requirements fall in line with the Cubs’ assessment of their value. Not quite as sexy as some of the other moves out there that have already been talked about to death, but I suspect we see a few deals get done shortly after spring training officially opens in a couple days.
Update: Jeff Passan reports that Hendriks has several offers and has set a Thursday deadline for signing with a team. If he doesn’t get a deal to his liking, he’ll rehab on his own and throw for teams again in July with the goal of pitching down the stretch.
Reliever Liam Hendriks has multiple offers and has set a deadline of Thursday to sign with a team, sources tell ESPN. If Hendriks doesn’t sign now, he would keep rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his own and throw for teams in late July before signing for the stretch run.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 14, 2024