Buying Brad Hand

Every team in baseball could use Hand, just maybe not for $10M.

Brad Hand posted some of his best numbers in 2020, yet nobody wanted him. Well, at least not for $10 million.

After his $10 million option was declined by Cleveland, Hand cleared waivers. This is despite the 30-year-old lefty posting career bests in ERA (2.05), WHIP (0.77) and K:BB ratio (7.25) while leading the league with 16 saves. He even had his best wOBA (.213) and xwOBA (.235) against.

So how is it possible nobody was willing to take on that fairly reasonable commitment? Some of Hand’s other numbers are trending the wrong direction.

That’s pretty scary, right? Well, those 2020 numbers don’t look nearly as concerning when you compare Hand to his bullpen free-agent counterparts. No, he doesn’t hold up well against the more high-octane relief free agents like Liam Hendriks or Trevor Rosenthal, but take a look at the table below, which is sortable by each stat.

2020 Stats

Even Hand’s whiff rate, which was the most concerning of all his numbers referenced in the first table, still looks respectable when compared to his peers on the market. Another thing that sets him apart is he’s the only left-hander in this group. Jake McGee is among the other top southpaws available, and while he posted impressive strikeout numbers, he was also in the bottom fourth percentile in hard-hit rate and bottom first percentile in exit velocity.

Hand doesn’t fit the profile of your typical dominant arm in the back end of a bullpen. That’s a big reason why he’s available, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he shapes up to be a poor investment. Every team in baseball could use a Brad Hand, at the right price.

I suspect many front offices were hesitant to dip into the reliever market prior to the non-tender deadline, fearing that a few more attractive arms may become available. The only bullpen arm to sign for a salary over $2 million so far is Trevor May, who went to the Mets on a two-year, $15.5 million deal.

While there were a few strong bullpen arms non-tendered (Bradley among them), it wouldn’t appear to have greatly impacted Hand’s market.

Could Hand pull a Charlie Morton and end up signing a contract worth the exact amount of his original option? That’s probably not realistic, but if the market plays out in his favor, you never know.

It’ll be interesting to see how Hand and his agency approach things. Does it make more sense to take a deal now, while there’s theoretically the most money still left to be spent? Or would it be better to wait things out until he’s the most attractive relief arm available?

So which teams make sense as suitors for Hand? I thought the Angels would have been a good match prior to trading for Raisel Iglesias, but it seems unlikely they’d also make a big free agent addition to their bullpen as well.

The Phillies are easily the team in most need of bullpen help, but early signs indicate are they’re not going to sign any big-ticket free agents. Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported the Blue Jays have interest in Hand. Their closer, Ken Giles, is expected to miss the entire 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Hand is a solid fit for most teams looking to compete in 2020, but much like with everything else on this year’s free-agent market, the question comes down to who’s going to be willing to spend.

(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire) | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Tom Froemming

Tom is a self-professed bullpen nerd who, in addition to contributing to Pitcher List, serves as the content editor at Twins Daily. You can also find him on both Twitter and YouTube as TFTwins.

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