Liam Hendriks Joins Red Sox, Brandon Woodruff Returns to Brewers, Nick Burdi Impressing Yankees

It seemed for a while as though Liam Hendriks was a good bet to remain in Chicago, especially in light of the report that he’d set last Thursday as a signing deadline. Instead, the injured former White Sox closer is simply changing the color of his hosiery. The 35-year-old has agreed to a two-year deal with the Red Sox that guarantees him $10 million and carries another $10 million in potential incentives along with a mutual option for a third year.

Hendriks believes he’ll be able to return after the All-Star Break, which is a supremely optimistic timeline given it’d be almost exactly a year from his elbow reconstruction, but Boston should get at least one full season from him. I still wish the Cubs had done this deal, assuming Hendriks would have taken it over what else was being offered. Maybe the Red Sox simply provide him with what he feels is a better opportunity.

Brandon Woodruff was in a similar situation in terms of timing, as he could miss all of 2024 following surgery to repair a capsular tear in his throwing shoulder. It felt like he was destined for a new team when the Brewers non-tendered him, but Jone Heyman reports that the big righty has re-signed with Milwaukee for two years. Terms of the deal are not yet known.

In other news regarding a pitcher who’s overcome injuries and has been connected to the Cubs, much more directly in this case, Nick Burdi has been looking good in Yankees camp. Burdi is one of only two pitchers to have pitched in the majors after undergoing two Tommy John surgeries and thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, though his season was cut short by an emergency appendectomy last year.

Now the 31-year-old is in Tampa as a non-roster invitee and he’s showcasing a lower arm slot meant to alleviate some of the stress on his right arm. Greg Joyce of the New York Post reported that Burdi is flashing the same mid-to-upper 90s fastball — he averaged 98.1 mph with the Cubs last year and the same with the Pirates in 2020 — to go with some new offerings. In addition to the four-seam and slider he’s used exclusively in his last three MLB campaigns, Burdi is also throwing a sweeper and a changeup.

“That was real,” pitching coach Matt Blake said following a recent live BP session. “That was impressive.”

What’s mildly ironic about this situation is that Joyce wrote that Burdi likes the Yankees due to “their history of developing bullpen arms out of nowhere.” Wait, I thought the Cubs were the only team that did that, especially with oft-injured pitchers. This is really a matter of timing more than anything else, as the Cubs effectively became the (potential) wrong end of the change-of-scenery equation following Burdi’s appendectomy.

He was outrighted on November 6 when the 60-day IL went away, at which point he chose free agency and was able to have his pick of organizations. I have to believe the Cubs were willing to make him an NRI on a minors deal as well since none of the various fliers Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins have taken on reclamation projects this offseason have Burdi’s elite velo and potential wipeout stuff. That said, it made sense for Burdi to opt for another fresh start somewhere else.

And hey, it’s entirely possible that a pitcher or three will emerge this spring in Mesa as legit bullpen weapons. Maybe it’s an old friend like Carl Edwards Jr. or a Driveline product like Richard Lovelady. We’ll find out soon enough because Cactus League games start later this week.

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