Liam Hendriks Round Three, anyone?
According to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, the ace reliever was at the Blue Jays’ spring training complex in Dunedin on Monday, presumably getting a sales pitch about why he should join the club for a third go-around.
Liam Hendriks in 2021 is obviously a very different Liam Hendriks than the one we saw here between 2014 and 2015.
The Aussie was originally claimed off of waivers from the Baltimore Orioles and used as a depth starter on a Blue Jays team in 2014 with some hilariously bad pitching woes. He was traded mid-season along with Erik Kratz to Kansas City for Danny Valencia before getting sent back to Toronto in another trade, this time involving prospect Santiago Nessy.
In 2015, Hendriks thrived when the team pivoted him to the bullpen full-time. He posted a 2.92 ERA over 58 appearances while striking out 9.9 batters per nine innings in a middle relief role. After that, the Jays sent him to Oakland in exchange for swingman Jesse Chavez, and, from there, Hendriks broke out as one of baseball’s best relievers.
Over the past two seasons, Hendriks has posted a 1.79 ERA over the course of 110 1/3 innings and has struck out 13.1 batters per nine. He earned an All-Star nod in 2019 and both Cy Young and MVP votes in 2020.
The connection between Hendriks and the Blue Jays is pretty obvious. From the player’s perspective, he’s familiar with the city, as he was a part of the team for its wild 2015 run, and his wife is from Montreal. And, from the team’s perspective, you can never have enough quality pitching.
The Blue Jays’ most glaring need this off-season is in the starting rotation, but that doesn’t mean the team is completely set in the bullpen. As our friend Gideon mentioned a couple of months ago, the bullpen could be a place where the Blue Jays flex their financial muscle in order to make a major improvement.
If the team wants to take another step forward in 2021, they absolutely need somebody who can get three outs in the ninth inning. The Jays will be without closer Ken Giles and while guys like Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis might be able to shoulder that role, they don’t have the big-game experience that Hendriks does.