Oakland A’s: Potential landing spots for Liam Hendriks

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 17: Liam Hendriks #16 of the Oakland Athletics reacts to getting the save during the ninth inning to beat the Kansas City Royals at Ring Central Coliseum on September 17, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 17: Liam Hendriks #16 of the Oakland Athletics reacts to getting the save during the ninth inning to beat the Kansas City Royals at Ring Central Coliseum on September 17, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Let’s take a look at three potential free agency destinations for Oakland A’s reliever Liam Hendriks.

Let’s call this one how we see it. Oakland A’s closer Liam Hendriks is the best reliever of this year’s free-agent class. No question about it.

Hendriks picked an incredible time to put together the best two seasons of his career, by a considerable margin. The soon to be 32-year-old was unhittable over the last two seasons, pitching to sub-2.00 ERAs in both years. These unhittable performances came just in time for Hendriks to hit free agency this offseason, and be well on his way to a large paycheck.

Of course, the Oakland A’s had the option to offer Hendriks a qualifying offer. This was never likely, as the Athletics have never extended a qualifying offer to anyone even in a normal winter. And after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, we know MLB owners have been vocal about tightening budgets thanks to the lost revenues.

On top of his combined 1.79 ERA over the last two seasons, Hendriks recorded 161 strikeouts and 24 walks in just over 110 IP. And for the analytics’ lovers, the Australian native has been using his rising fastball to baffle hitters. According to David Adler of MLB.com, Hendriks has been throwing his average 96.3 mph fastball, which rises more than three inches above the average MLB pitcher, in nearly 80 percent of his counts.

The market for pitchers, especially relief pitchers, has never been better. Let’s look at three potential landing spots for the Oakland A’s closer.

Philadelphia Phillies

Last season, the Philadelphia Phillies ranked dead last in the MLB in both bullpen ERA and WHIP. The ERA was ugly, sitting at 7.06 and the WHIP didn’t fare much better at 1.790. What’s worse? Philadelphia finished just four games under .500, at 28-32, and one game out of the expanded postseason bracket.

If the Phillies are to make a splash in free agency, especially in the form of Hendriks, don’t expect this transaction to come in the immediate future. Philadelphia is still in search of a replacement for GM Matt Klentak, who stepped down in October.

Whoever fills Klentak’s open role has plenty of work ahead of them. Even after posting a historically bad bullpen last season, the majority of the arms are headed for free agency. This includes Brandon Workman, Tommy Hunter, David Phelps, Blake Parker, José Álvarez, Adam Morgan, and Heath Hembree.

While one arm isn’t enough of a solution, signing Hendriks would be a great start. Of course, the Phillies still need to work on potentially re-signing free agents J.T. Realmuto or Didi Gregorius, but the talented offense and position player depth is there. It’s time for Philadelphia to start surrounding Bryce Harper with a winning product.