Liam Hendriks proved to be a valuable piece of the Oakland A’s bullpen. While he may have priced himself outside of their budget, can the A’s afford to lose him?
Liam Hendriks has been one of the great success stories for the Oakland A’s over the past couple of years. Thrust into the closer position out of necessity following Blake Trienen’s implosion, Hendriks became a revelation. He posted a 1.80 ERA and a 0.965 WHiP in his 85 innings, notching 25 saves while striking out 124 batters with just 21 walks. All of a sudden, he had gone from an anonymous middle reliever to a dominant closer.
But the annuls of relief pitching are littered with those who dominated for a season and failed to replicate that performance. As impressive as Hendriks was, he needed to prove himself all over again in 2020 to show that his breakout was not a fluke.
He answered that question with ease. Hendriks was a key part of what was a dominant regular season bullpen, posting a 1.78 ERA and a 0.671 WHiP in 25.1 innings, striking out 37 batters with just three walks. Needless to say, Hendriks answered any questions in emphatic nature.
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But that performance leaves questions for the future. The Oakland A’s now have to determine whether or not they will be able to keep him in the fold going forward. While he was easily their best reliever, the A’s need to look at their budget going forward.
Including Hendriks, the A’s have ten impending free agents, and will not be able to keep them all. While they would like to retain Marcus Semien, he could also be a budget causality, someone whose market prices him beyond their range. The same could easily happen with Hendriks, especially given how many teams have struggled to find effective relief pitching.
It is possible that Hendriks faces a depressed market. There have been rumblings that other teams could limit their spending this offseason given the uncertainty of whether or not fans will be in the stands for 2021. That could make Hendriks more affordable.
Conversely, the A’s have potential internal options to replace Hendriks. J.B. Wendelken has been a solid reliever and could get a look. The electric A.J. Puk has not been able to stay healthy as a starter, and could find his way to the bullpen. But any options have some rather large shoes to fill.
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The Oakland A’s cannot afford to lose Liam Hendriks. At the same time, they may not be able to afford to keep him around.