Despite showing signs of turning things around, the bullpen is still going to need at least one major addition by the Cleveland Indians front office this July. Could Padres closer Brad Hand be that addition?
While Neil Ramirez is making an attempt at locking down the setup role in the absence of Andrew Miller, the Cleveland Indians are still going to need to make an addition to the back end of that bullpen if Terry Francona is ever going to be able to trust that group.
Even with a healthy Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, there needs to be other reliable options for Tito to go to in important games. Otherwise, he’ll risk burning out Miller and Allen before we even get to October.
July is getting closer and closer and it’s time to start thinking about trade targets in July. The biggest name on the bullpen market this year is going to be Brad Hand.
How is Brad Hand performing?
Hand is having his best year yet. Through 28 games, Hand has 18 saves and a 2.01 ERA this season. His staggering 14.1 strikeouts per nine is the highest of his career.
His ERA has dropped every year since he joined the Padres. Hand had a 2.92 ERA in 2016, a 2.16 ERA last year, and now he’s down to a 2.01 ERA this year.
The only potential red flag is his walk rate. Hand has walked a lot more hitters that normal this year. In his All Star 2017 campaign, Hand had a 2.3 BB/9. This year, he’s up to 4.0 BB/9. As potentially dangerous as that might be, Hand would still be worth the acquisition as he’s shown the ability to strand those runners he puts on.
What does Hand’s contract look like?
Contractually, Hand is relatively inexpensive. He’s signed through 2020 with a club option for 2021. He’s getting paid $3.5 million this year, $6.5 million in 2019, and $7 million in 2020. The club option is for $10 million. Even at his most expensive contract year in 2021, he’d still be cheaper than Cody Allen.
He’s been one of the best back end bullpen arms for the past couple of seasons and he’s under a very cheap contract for his performance.
What would it cost to get Hand?
Considering how cheap his contract is and the length of control the Cleveland Indians would get, the prospect price to acquire Hand is going to be a little bit higher. I don’t think the Indians would have to throw in Francisco Mejia or Triston McKenzie, the Tribe’s top two prospects. Hand just hasn’t been dominant enough for long enough to garner that kind of return.
The Padres are going to set a high price, but that high walk rate for Hand this year could give the Indians something to bring up in negotiations to try to lower the price.
Perhaps a package headlined by third baseman Nolan Jones and a few other pieces would be enough to entice the Padres to make the deal. Getting Hand would give the Cleveland Indians insurance in the event that Cody Allen and Andrew Miller depart in free agency next winter.
The Indians figure to be connected to several bullpen names as this trade season progresses, and rightfully so. This is going to be one wild July as the playoff races heat up.