There has been a lot of chatter recently about the prospect of Brandon Woodruff signing with a team this offseason for a two-year deal, with the aim of spending the 2024 season rehabbing from his anterior capsule injury and making his return to the mound in 2025. Why wouldn’t there be? He’s been a terrific pitcher his entire career with the Brewers, and made for a two-headed monster with Corbin Burnes in the rotation. While the Mets, who will have plenty of open rotation spots for the 2025 season seem like a perfect fit for Burnes, there is another pitcher who is currently rehabbing that should be given the same attention for a similar deal.

So many thoughts come to mind when Liam Hendriks is mentioned. Hendriks is one of the most resilient players in recent memory, battling through years of inconsistent performance to become one of the most elite pitchers in baseball, striking out cancer along the way as well. Since the 2019 season Hendriks has dazzled, never pitching to an ERA higher than 2.81 outside of his injury-shortened 2023. In 2022, he was especially effective against right-handed batters, keeping them to a .602 OPS, striking out 43 of them. Even more enticing about Hendriks is that he was impactful during high-leverage situations, holding his opponents to an abysmal .188 average. In a position that requires you to thrive under pressure, Hendriks over-delivered.

Hendriks, like Woodruff, is currently a free agent. As he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, teams are going to approach him with caution. What’s working against Hendriks is that he just turned 35 this month, meaning a two-year deal with him will take him through his age 36 season. Although age is less of an issue when it comes to relievers (38 year-old David Roberson just scored an $11.5 million deal) there is concern with Hendriks making a full recovery at his age. Another potential concern is that his knockout pitch is a slider that works down and in on righties that acts as a low and away pitch on lefties, and sliders possess a bad reputation for causing strain on the elbow. There is a real possibility that Hendriks does not return as the pitcher everyone knows him to be.

As much as it is a possibility for Hendriks to come back a shell of himself, it is also very possible for him to come back and return to form. If that is the case, it could be prudent for the Mets to bring him in on a two or even three year deal. Should the Mets be all in on the 2025 season as many have speculated, it’s important to note that there are not many headline free agent relievers who could enter a bullpen and have an impact like Hendriks could. Sure, Clay Holmes will be available, and so will Taylor Scott. Those guys are effective, but an elite Hendriks could surely level up a Mets bullpen.

Hendriks could make the most sense as a midseason addition to the roster, especially if they are in the running for a postseason position as they make their way through the season. Two things that David Stearns has harped on this offseason is that he believes the bullpen will look different at the end of the season than it did at the beginning, and that he believes the sustained path to winning includes having a strong farm system. With Hendriks expecting to come back in July, he could serve as an addition that comes to the team without having to trade prospects to receive him. The thought of a backend of the bullpen featuring a healthy Hendricks and Edwin Diaz is enough to get fans excited and opponents worried late in games.

With an owner like Steve Cohen, it is not impossible to rule out that the Mets play the long game on both Burnes and Hendriks. If this offseason has taught us anything about contracts, it is that players are willing to defer parts of their contract if it means that the team can add more pieces to be competitive. Could the Mets find themselves in a situation where Burnes and/or Hendriks join the team during the 2024 season at a deferred rate? If they do find themselves in that position, they have the opportunity to add an elite reliever for the second half of the 2024 season, and also add a great starter to pair with Kodai Senga as they look towards a monstrous 2025 free agent class.

2 comments on “Liam Hendriks could make sense as an in-season target

  • TexasGusCC

    Dalton, love your article today. Really thought provoking! As I read through it, I thought of various scenarios and I am real sure Stearns has already thought of them. As shoulder injuries like the one Woodruff has can affect a pitcher post-recovery, the risk on the Mets’ part would just be money (easy for me to say). But, any contract is averaged out so if you give Woodruff $2MM for this year and say $16MM for next year, the average is $9MM per year and the tax on having that sitting around all this year is another $10MM. Also, the MLBPA probably will not allow a player to just sign a one year deal at $2MM and make a side deal for next year’s $16MM, but I wonder if it’s wrong to make a player sign two different deals. As the Dodgers taught the universe this year, rules are for idiots and loopholes and creativity reign.

    As for Hendriks, I don’t know. While good relievers will always be available, unless you give a team a great deal, do you really want to hang your hat on his recovery? Also, the math applies here too. Also with Hendriks, don’t forget that Noah Syndergaard came back from TJ surgery and can barely throw 90mph now.

    The Mets backed themselves into a corner by trying to buy a championship as soon as possible and it will take patience and prudence to get out of that spot. It’s incredible that I read how the Mets have returned to Wilponian methods, but in this case I don’t know if it’s wise based on the types of injuries these particular players are battling.

  • Metstabolism

    I suspect that the narrative on Hendriks for most teams right now is to wait until he is closer to recovered, and for him to hold an open workout/throwing session where the team can view him, and then make a decision.
    As for Woodruff and a 2-year deal, TexasGus made a very salient point about the tax. But I think there’s another angle at play, here. We don’t yet know how the 2024 season will play out, or what the Mets’ needs will be heading into ’25. Stearns is keeping his options open for a ’25 plan and, depending on how things lay out, one possible plan could be to get the Mets under the CBT for 2025, then spend again in ’26. This explains his severe leaning towards only 1-year deals this year.

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