Brad Hand has been one of the better relief pitchers in baseball since the 2016 season where he appeared in a league-high 82 games with the San Diego Padres. The one-time starter has progressed from being a top set up man to now a top closer. Hand is still young enough to be a very effective pitcher. It was shocking to see the Cleveland Indians decline Hand’s 10 million dollar option for the 2021 season and outright release him. Hand was not claimed on waivers and is now a free agent.
Since 2016 Brad Hand is 17-18 with a 2.70 ERA and a WHIP of 1.066. In 320 innings, Hand has struck out 434 batters while allowing 31 home runs. Hand has also saved 104 games. In the shortened 2020 season Hand statistically was having his best season. His ERA was 2.05 and his WHIP was 0.773 both are career lows. Hand also saved all 16 of his save chances and did not allow a home run in 22 innings. Hand also has an 18% IRS percentage allowing only 27 inherited runs to cross the plate out of 150 total throughout his career.
If there has been one bad side of his game it would be his performance in the postseason. In two and a third innings Hand has allowed four earned runs and one long ball while blowing his only save opportunity. The stunning news of the Indians waiving Hand could be an indication of the cold free agent market ahead in the wake of a season that saw MLB lose a reported 3.1 billion dollars. Hand will be 31-years-old when the 2021 season begins.
Brad Hand Destinations
To say that the 2020 season was a disappointment for the Arizona Diamondbacks would be an understatement. After an offseason that was filled with so much potential the Diamondbacks stumbled to a 25-35 record. Archie Bradley was the closer and he was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds at the trading deadline leaving an opening in the backend of the bullpen. Bradley was a better closer than a starting pitcher but he still had a 61% save percentage which is not very good.
Stefan Crichton became the closer after Bradley was traded and he saved five games out of seven attempts. It is doubtful that Arizona will hand over the closer role to Crichton when there are better options on the market. Arizona does not have many holes to fill this offseason. With the current financial situation in baseball, Arizona is primed to add one of the top closers on the market.
New York Mets
The New York Mets will be the team to watch this offseason. Steve Cohen is the new owner after he paid over two billion dollars to purchase the Mets from the Wilpon family. Not only did Cohen buy the Mets for the highest amount of other teams in all of the four major American sports he is the richest owner in baseball. Cohen is said to want to make a big splash this offseason.
The Mets bullpen struggles are well documented. Edwin Diaz was brought in to be the closer for the next decade but he has had trouble saving games in the Big Apple. For that reason, Hand is a prime target for the Mets. New Mets President Sandy Alderson did state in an interview that if the timing were different, the Mets would have claimed Brad Hand. Although he did say that 10 million might be a little high to pay for Hand. Alderson has no loyalty to keep Diaz as the closer. Hand would be a big addition to the Mets bullpen.
New York Yankees
One of the staples of the New York Yankees the last few seasons has been their deep bullpen. Aroldis Chapman has been the stopper since 2016 minus the one season he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs midseason which saw the Yankees acquire Gleyber Torres. Chapman helped the Cubs break their 108 year World Series drought and then signed back with the Yankees for the next season. He will be 33 years old when the 2021 season starts and is already showing signs of declining.
Chapman spent time on the Injured List in 2018 and 2019 and missed part of the 2020 season with Covid-19. Additionally, the last two seasons ended on home runs given up by Chapman. Chapman still saves 89% of his chances but has been more hittable every year. The Yankees do have Zack Britton on their roster who can close games. Tommy Kahnle is out for the 2021 season and Adam Ottavino was completely unreliable in 2020. The Yankees will be all-in on improving their bullpen for the upcoming season. Having another reliever that can close games will be valuable with Champan’s recent injury history.
If you want to describe the Philadelphia Phillies 2020 bullpen in one word it would be disgraceful. As a team, the Phillies led all of baseball with 14 blown saves. Hector Neris had the first crack at closing and he was badvery ineffective pitching to a 4.57 ERA with a 1.708 WHIP. Then the Phillies traded for Boston Red Sox closer Brandon Workman and he was not any better. Workman finished the season with a 1-4 record, 5.95 ERA, and a WHIP of 2.237. Workman also blew three saves out of eight chances.
The offense wasn’t the problem for the Phillies. They were sixth in all of baseball with 306 runs scored. The Phillies have some key free agents this offseason which include starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the big prize of J.T. Realmuto. Additionally, the Phillies are in the midst of searching for a new General Manager. After two offseasons where the Phillies spent wildly, it is not known how much money they have to spend this offseason. One thing is for sure. The Phillies desperately need to rebuild their bullpen if they want to compete in 2021.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays are an up and coming team with a tremendous young offensive core. In 2020 the Blue started to add pitching to their young nucleus. It was mostly starting pitchers such as Hyun Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, and Tanner Roark among others. While this infusion of pitching was met with mixed results, The Blue Jays still managed to reach the postseason for the first time since the 2016 season.
As a whole the Blue Jays bullpen was good. Their save percentage was 59% which was lower than the league average. But their inherited runs scored percentage of 28% was tied for the third-best in MLB. This is with the third most inherited runs total of 121. This was the good part. The bad part is their 12 blown saves out of 29 chances. It was very much a closer by committee approach with six different players earning a save which includes closer Ken Giles. Giles who is a free agent suffered injuries the past two seasons and most likely won’t be back. The Blue Jays will be aggressive on the free-agent market and Brad Hand would be a great addition as the closer.
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