Liam Hendriks, J.P. Feyereisen, and the Injured Pitcher Contract

Two players make different use of the trendy injury contract.

Because the Red Sox signed neither Shohei Ohtani nor Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and because this seemed to conflict with Tom Werner’s promise for a “full throttle” offseason effort from the Boston front office, this winter has often seemed like an alienating failure to Red Sox fans. The strangeness reached a crescendo when Werner walked back the “full throttle” comment by implying it was a kind of self-help motto in his own life.

But on the margins of what seems to be quite a tight budget, Craig Breslow and his Boston front office are doing some interesting thingsmoney-saving things, yes, but still interesting. There was the Alex Verdugo trade, which replaced Boston’s former starting right fielder, who is earning $8.7M this year in arbitration and who had a history of discipline problems, with Tyler O’Neill, who has much more power upside. O’Neill, who hit 34 homers in 2021, earns $5.85M this yearthat’s some money saved against Verdugo, but it may also be a clubhouse upgrade, too. There was the Chris Sale trade, which brought Vaughn Grissom to Boston—the former Braves middle infielder is young, controllable, and a solid hitter. There was the free-agent signing of Lucas Giolito, who at 29 finds himself one of the older players in the clubhouse, working on what is essentially a one-year, $18M deal with an eye toward performing well and opting out back into free agency.

And now there’s the Liam Hendriks contract, signed a week ago and worth $10M over two years. (He will earn $2M in 2024 and $6M in 2025, with a mutual option for a third year or else a $2M buyout.) Hendriks won the BBWAA Comeback Player of the Year Award this January after a Stage-4 lymphoma diagnosis kept him sidelined from January until late May when he made one of the coolest relief appearances ever.

But, by June, Hendriks had torn his UCL and undergone Tommy John. He is 35, so there isn’t a guarantee of a rapid or complete bounce-back, but Hendriks has a serious closing pedigree, and if he can return to something like the form that led him to All-Star appearances in 2019, 2021, and 2022, and AL Reliever of the Year awards in the latter two years, the Red Sox will have made a very canny move indeed. (For comparison, they are paying closer Kenley Jansen $16M this year, and setup man Chris Martin $7.5M.)

That Hendriks is unlikely to pitch much if at all in 2024 may be no problem either—the Red Sox don’t need top-end bullpen help, and certainly not in the closer role. But they will need someone in 2025, when Jansen and Martin are both free agents; plus, if Hendriks can find his way back to pitching by the trade deadline, Craig Breslow will have much more leverage if he can deal Jansen and still have two extremely solid late-inning arms.


Baseball is a highly profitable business, and it’s rare to find a feel-good, mutually beneficial deal in life when large amounts of money are concerned. Hendriks’ deal might be the closest thing. He’ll earn $2M while his elbow recovers, have club support and advice as he transitions back to throwing, and can make his comeback into a clear bullpen spot that will open on a schedule flexible to his recovery and needs. The Red Sox meanwhile, incur almost no loss in 2024—$2M for someone who doesn’t pitch still doesn’t push them near any taxes—and then get to underpay a potentially-elite reliever in 2025. This is a good contract, and a great one if Hendriks recovers well.

These deals are a good enough idea that they seem to be a trend. This offseason, Shane McClanahan got a similar deal to avoid arbitration with the Rays. Brandon Woodruff signed an injury deal with the Brewers. Kirby Yates did the same at the end of 2021, and had a good (if not great) season with the Braves in 2023: he recorded a middling 3.28 ERA, a strong 31.5 K%, and a slightly chilling 14.6 BB%. The most encouraging thing, by far, was that Yates managed to pitch 60.1 innings in 61 games.


But for every injured star pitcher paid to rehab, there are many more floating between teams, trying simultaneously to regain health and find a new gear. If Hendriks’ job is to get back to where he was, the job for a pitcher like J.P. Feyereisen is to marry rehab and improvement. I mention Feyereisen because his career is relatively unusual: having made his MLB debut in 2020 at the age of 27, he was traded from the Brewers to the Rays in May 2021. He’d been promising that year with Milwaukee already, pitching 19.1 innings in 19 games and giving up 7 earned runs, but he broke out with the Rays: in 36.2 innings over 34 games, he allowed 10 earned runs for a 2.45 ERA. The peripherals, however, were only so-so: he walked 14% of batters and only struck out 21%.

The most impressive thing about Feyereisen was the jump he took between 2021 and 2022; over a year, he upped his K% to 29.1, dropped the BB% to a truly elite 5.8, and didn’t allow an earned run over 24.1 innings in 22 games. I won’t write that ERA here—you can calculate it yourself. Batters seemed stumped, batting .086 against him.

So—was this a Linsanity run or the breakout of an elite reliever? We never really found out, because in June, Feyereisen injured his shoulder. In December 2022, the Rays traded him to the Dodgers, who have now paid him the league minimum for a year of rehab. He hasn’t been talked about much, perhaps because his truly elite numbers came at the beginning of a season with a team that doesn’t get much early-season hype. But Feyereisen is now back at Spring Training in Glendale, apparently eliciting praise in his bullpens and getting ready to pitch a full 2024.

It might be good sign for Feyereisen that the Dodgers traded for him even though he’d already been DFA’d by the Rays. It’s certainly a good sign for the Dodgers that Feyereisen will cost them $770k this year and is under team control (despite his age) through 2026. If the Dodgers do well this year, and especially if Feyereisen pitches as well as his 2021 and 2022 suggest he can, the story of the Dodgers will include a coda, or at least a caveat, to the big-spending hype train currently leaving the station. Baseball has always taken more than simply spending money, or simply recruiting free agents. Ask Aroldis Garcia, who made under $750k last year. And unless the Dodgers are the first team to make all else but money irrelevant, then players like Feyereisen will always matter. As the fire hose of Spring Training content begins to flow, Hendriks is a bright spot in the distance for the all-too-familiar Red Sox, and Feyereisen is a quiet, but important, developing story.

Paul Michaud

Paul Michaud's first memory is David Ortiz's walk-off homer in the 2004 ALCS. Nothing has topped that since. A Brown alum, he's also an editor and fiction writer.

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