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Liam Hendriks reportedly still on Dodgers’ radar

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Former A’s closer leads MLB in ERA & FIP since the start of 2019

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Liam Hendriks is a popular free agent this offseason, with the former A’s closer drawing interest from several teams.

One of those teams is reportedly the Dodgers, per Robert Murray of FanSided:

This isn’t the first time the Dodgers have been linked to Hendriks. Jeff Passan at ESPN on Dec. 14 listed the Dodgers as one of Hendriks’ pursuers, along with the White Sox, Astros, Mets, and Blue Jays.

Hendriks was in the news Monday partly because Shi Davidi of SportsNet reported the reliever visited the Blue Jays’ complex in Dunedin, Florida, which spawned a revisiting of his market. In addition to Murray mentioning the Dodgers, the White Sox (per Mark Feinsand at MLB.com) and Astros (per Chris Cotillo of MassLive) are still also reportedly in the mix.

It’s easy to see why teams are interested in the right-hander who turns 32 in February. Since the start of 2019, Hendriks has a 1.79 ERA and 1.70 FIP in 110⅓ innings, the best ERA and FIP among all pitchers with at least 100 innings. He had 37 strikeouts against only three walks in 2020, and over the last two seasons Hendriks’ 38-percent strikeout rate matched Gerrit Cole for best in the majors.

Dave Roberts in December mentioned a right-handed bat and relief pitching as the main items on the Dodgers’ offseason shopping list. We covered the interest in the bat(s) earlier Monday. In the last few weeks the Dodgers added a pair of relievers as well, though not necessarily impactful moves for 2021.

Tommy Kahnle had Tommy John surgery in August and is expected to miss most if not all of this year. Lefty-hander Garrett Cleavinger turns 27 in April and was unable in 2020 to crack a historically bad Phillies bullpen, save for his one major league game in September.

Hendriks, on the other hand, would definitely be an impact addition. Whether it’s likely he lands in Los Angeles probably depends on the Dodgers’ willingness to exceed the competitive balance tax. After salary arbitration the Dodgers will be roughly $20 million below the $210 million CBT threshold, and that’s before considering in-season additions and potential bonuses.

Adding Hendriks and a right-handed bat, all while staying under the threshold, would require some financial gymnastics, something that hasn’t stopped Andrew Friedman before.

If the Dodgers see a fit, I don’t think money would necessarily be a hindrance. They would have exceeded the CBT in 2020 had David Price not opted out, and their tax rate this year would only be 20 percent of the amount over $210 million since they haven’t been CBT payers since 2017.

The Dodgers have preached the pursuit of elite talent for years, and for the most part have delivered. Hendriks certainly fits that mold, though given the competition for his services it’s still probably a long shot that he ends up in Los Angeles.