By: Chris Larson
When you look at the San Diego Padres, they are a team that is still in rebuild mode, but one that is a lot closer than a lot of people realize. In fact, the Padres now have one of the games Top 5 farm systems and are loaded with plenty of young and exciting prospects that should eventually reach the major league level within the next couple of years.
Up at the big league level, the San Diego Padres currently have a roster that has the team sitting in fifth place in the NL West with a 36-48 record. However, that is not to take anything away from some of the up and coming talent on the Padres 25-man roster or the fact that they have Eric Hosmer locked down at first base for the foreseeable future who can serve as a tremendous clubhouse leader as they transition forward in the rebuild process. Beyond that, you can't go wrong with guys such as Austin Hedges, Christian Villanueva, Freddy Galvis, or some of the valuable assets that make up part of the Padres bullpen either.
One of those valuable assets is 28-year old, lefty, Brad Hand, who has been mentioned in the trade market for a little over a year now and someone who the Padres inked to a three-year extension this past January. The deal included three guaranteed years along with an option year for the 2021 season worth $10 million dollars. Once the extension was announced, it was heavily praised because Brad Hand deserved it after the way he pitched during the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the team. During both of those years, Hand finished with a cumulative ERA of 2.57 over 168.2 IP with 215 strikeouts.
After Hand was traded from the Miami Marlins to the San Diego Padres at the conclusion of the 2015 regular season, he experienced somewhat of a career resurgence and found energy pitching in a new ballpark. During his five seasons with the Marlins, Hand pitched to the tune of a 4.75 ERA over 288.2 IP with a 4.54 Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP) and a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 5.4. Over the last two and a half seasons with the Padres, besides his shiny ERA, Hand has a 3.13 FIP and a strikeouts-per-9 rate of 11.77.
What's even more impressive about Brad Hand is the fact that he has drawn comparisons to the dominance and stuff that current New York Yankees reliever, Aroldis Chapman, has. Chapman is also a lefty and gets a lot more notoriety because of where he plays, but Brad Hand is right up there too in regard to stuff and can do just as good of a job, which is a huge advantage for the Padres. San Diego has someone that can close out games for them now, but the bigger question is: do they really need someone, like Brad Hand, when they are clearly rebuilding and likely won't be competitive for the next few seasons that Hand is under contract?
The answer to that question is probably no and that's why San Diego needs to be marketing Brad Hand aggressively and trying to get a return that the New York Yankees got when they traded, Aroldis Chapman, to the Chicago Cubs. At that time, the Yankees got back a package headlined by Gleyber Torres that also included Adam Warren, Billy McKinney, and Rashad Crawford. Keep in mind that the Yankees got that back for a half-a-year of control for Chapman so the return for, Brad Hand for the San Diego Padres, would likely be exuberant!
The acquiring team would basically be getting Hand for this season as well as the next two years and would have the choice of picking up Hand's option for 2021 also depending on how he continued to perform and how he fit into the organization's overall plans. That means that there should be plenty of suitors for Hand and the Padres should have no problem finding a trade partner especially if they focus on where Brad Hand ranks, among other qualified relievers, over the past three seasons.
Since that time, Hand has the 14th highest strikeouts-per-9 rate (11.77), the 18th lowest ERA (2.60), and the 14th highest WAR (3.6). In addition to that, Hand has a left-on base percentage of 80.1% over that span along with an Opponent Batting Average Against of .190. Hand might not have the most impressive numbers or rank among the most elite on the list, but that is still stellar and goes to prove the value that he has provided to the San Diego Padres over the last two and a half seasons.
Now, on the surface, it would appear that there would be plenty of suitors ready to enter the Brad Hand sweepstakes, assuming that the Padres make him available in the first place, which they still have not indicated publicly. Many around baseball believe that they will ultimately listen and trade him before the July 31st Trade Deadline passes, but in this game, you never know and ultimately if the Padres end up getting underwhelming offers, then they can always elect to hold onto Hand and wait until this offseason when all other 29 teams can be in on the derby.
However, for reading purposes, let's speculate and assume that the Padres will indeed make him available, as they should, considering the circumstances here. The teams at the forefront and the ones that would be most aggressive would likely include both the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. Cleveland needs another bullpen arm and Brad Hand would be a weapon to have along with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen at the back end. On the other hand, the Houston Astros have needed a left-handed reliever dating back to last season and Hand would be a terrific fit.
Beyond the Indians and Astros, some other potential fits include the: Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, and yes, the New York Yankees. For the Phillies, Hand would add depth to a young bullpen, the Braves have a tremendous farm system with plenty of prospects to give up, and you cannot count out either the Red Sox or Yankees from the derby. The fit might not be ideal for either club, but the Yankees may very well elect to focus on building up their already fabulous bullpen with another arm, rather than trying to acquire another starting pitcher. Boston, on the other hand, doesn't have the deepest farm system, like they once did, but could use Brad Hand for added security in the bullpen.
Either way, Brad Hand has been a very valuable reliever over the past two and a half seasons and the San Diego Padres have a true gem on their hand. Whether they trade Hand before the July 31st Trade Deadline or not, remains to be seen, but if they do, expect teams to quickly line up and the haul to beat out the return that the Yankees got just two years ago for Aroldis Chapman.