It is being reported that the Cleveland Indians have placed closer Brad Hand on waivers. Here’s what it means for the Tribe.
Being reported across the baseball landscape, the Cleveland Indians have opted to waive closer Brad Hand. The move comes just days after the Dodgers clinched the World Series and gives a sign of things to come this offseason in Cleveland for a team that is expected to heavily slash payroll once again.
The move by the Cleveland Indians to place Hand on waivers should come as no surprise. The 30-year old closer has been stellar over his tenure in Cleveland, but his contract was becoming too high for the club’s future plans. Hand is one of three players that entered the offseason with a club option for the 2021 season with his price tag set at $10 million.
Hand is just the first decision that the Indians will have to make as both Carlos Santana and Roberto Perez are also on the club option list for 2021. Cutting ties with Hand will save the team $10 million while doing so with Santana would save $17.5 million. Perez’s contract is much cheaper at $5.5 million.
This means a few different things for the Indians, but most importantly it shows that they are wasting no time getting the ball rolling into the offseason. On our Indians offseason checklist, making a decision on the club options was the first step, and that included declining Brad Hand’s option. But while the move makes sense, it still raises concerns for the club.
With Brad Hand out of the picture, the Cleveland Indians will need to begin the search for a new closer. They have options in-house, but could also look to make a free agency addition. When looking at the roster, three names stick out as candidates to take over the ninth inning.
Both Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak pitched late in games for the Tribe during the 2020 season and could see their role increased in 2021. While Wittgren pitched in more high-stress situations during the last season, Karinchak has been widely viewed as the Indians’ closer in the making with his blazing fastball and bending breaking balls. However, there is another name that could be brought up, and for a similar reason.
Last season, the Indians acquired Emmanuel Clase from the Rangers, but a suspension kept him out for the duration of the 2020 season. A fire-thrower himself, Clase could be thrust into the closer role as well. If the Cleveland Indians decide to fill the role left behind by Brad Hand with players already on the roster, then this will be a battle to keep an eye on throughout the offseason and into spring training, if not the season.
Now, what will come of the $10 million that the Cleveland Indians won’t have to pay Brad Hand? Well, if you’re a dreamer then you might think it could go towards signing Francisco Lindor long-term. While that isn’t out of the realm of possibility, it is a long-shot. The team has been rather clear that they don’t plan on resigning Lindor.
So, if not Lindor, where else? Unfortunately, that answer might be nowhere. The front office has expressed an interest in cutting back on payroll after the financial losses suffered from not having fans in 2020 and a shortened season on top of that. During the 2020 season, the Indians already had one of the lower payrolls, but the number should continue to drop.
Additionally, the Tampa Bay Rays making the World Series might have provided hope to small market teams, but it could also have a negative effect. The Rays had one of the lowest payrolls in all of baseball last season and still make it to the World Series and lasted six games against the high payroll of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Seeing that success, small market owners around the league might be pushing to spend even less because of the Rays. “If they can do it, then so can we.”
Placing Brad Hand on waivers is just the first of many, many moves to come this offseason for the Cleveland Indians, but this one being the first is a big sign. While expected, it is now clear that the Indians are committed to spending as little as possible during the 2021 season. That doesn’t always mean they won’t be as successful, but it will be much more difficult to remain as competitive as they have been the last few seasons.