Brad Hand, Padres lefty reliever: he’s pretty good.
Somehow the Padres got him off waivers in April of 2016, from Miami. Then he started throwing a bunch of breaking balls and turned a lost career around. So far this year both his strikeout percentage (31.8 percent) and K%-BB% (22.8 percent) are at career highs, just a few ticks up over last year’s numbers.
Before we start this silly project, let’s answer a not-so-simple question: what’s he worth?
It’s tough, of course, because who knows. The answer to that question is always whatever anyone’s willing to pay, basically. Hand’s not quite into Aroldis Chapman territory, or even particularly close, so he’s not going to bring back a package that includes a legit top 10 prospect or anything. But he’s good. He’s a shutdown lefty with good peripherals, good surface stats, durability, and a newfound ability to get right handers out. Plus he’s affordable, with two years left on his contract after this season. Everyone wants a reliable lefty in the bullpen, and Hand’s good enough to be closer material in the right situation.
The best recent comps that I could come up with, in terms of a potential return, are Tyler Thornburg and Will Smith (h/t: @poglankford on Smith), and I think Hand probably has a little more sexiness than either of them.
Thornburg’s a righty and he’s currently injured, but last year in Milwaukee he jumped his strikeout rate from a career 7.7 per nine mark up to 12.1, and his overall peripherals in 2016 are close to identical to Hand’s recent output. Thornburg was traded this past offseason to the Red Sox for SS Mauricio Dubon, RHP Josh Pennington, and 3B Travis Shaw.
Dubon was the headliner of the deal. According to Baseball America, he ranked seventh in the Red Sox org, which was stacked at the time, when the trade was made. He’s a low-floor shortstop with some upside, but we don’t have to drill too deep here. Pennington was kind of a minor-league throw-in, an undersized righty drafted in the 29th round in 2014, then-ranked 29th in Boston’s system (he throws hard, though). Shaw, at the time, looked like a major-league throw-in, but he’s torn it up since, so take that for what it’s worth. He’s like an average-ish position player, so he’s worth something.
(Update: The Brewers just added a PTBNL to complete the deal in 18-year-old shortstop Yeison Coca. He ranks squarely outside of Boston’s top 10 or 15 prospects, but he makes the overall return that much sweeter.)
Smith, another one-time Brewer, is a lefty like Hand, and he gets a few more strikeouts with a few more walks, but otherwise he looks like the same dude. He was traded to the Giants last summer for RHP Phil Bickford and C Andrew Susac.
Bickford ranked third in the Giants organization at the time of the deal, per BA (fifth by BP), and 50th in BA’s midseason top 50 last year. A first round draft pick in 2015, he had a big year in 2016 as a 20-year-old in Single-A and High-A. Susac inched onto a couple of top 100 lists himself, at one point, but he seems to have earned the rep as a defensively challenged and injury prone catcher. Still, that’s quite a haul.
If Hand is comparable to these two, it’s a pretty safe bet that he could net a top 100 prospect right now in a one-for-one trade, maybe even as high as the 40 or 50 range. It all depends on how many teams are looking for a lefty like him and how many lefties are out there, of course, but there’s potential for a nice return here.
With those assumptions in mind, let’s get started. We’re going to go through each division, in order of current standings, and concoct a trade for each team. Yes, we’re really going to do that.
(all stats through sometime this past weekend; standings current)
New York Yankees (32-22)
The Yankees have a killer bullpen, with Aroldis Chapman (currently injured) and Dellin Betances and a couple of other guys who are just fine. But they don’t really have a super reliable second lefty, and this is a team that once rostered Chapman, Betances, and Andrew Miller. They’ve clearly bought into the whole Royals super-pen thing. They’re also surprisingly in first place, though they’ll likely need reinforcements to stay there. They’re players here, and they have a loaded farm system.
The Trade: Hand for SS Jorge Mateo and 3B Miguel Andujar
Mateo ranked squarely inside the top 100 coming into the season, but there are questions about where he’ll end up defensively, and he’s hitting just .245/.286/.412 in a repeat of High-A this season. Andujar is a toolsy third baseman and a former international signee. ‘Nuff said there.
Boston Red Sox (31-25)
No way they’re making another trade with the Red Sox, right? Not after all that went down last year, after San Diego traded a maybe-kinda-sorta partly injured or not fully healthy Drew Pomeranz to Boston for Anderson Espinoza in July, and Boston griped about it for the rest of the summer. No way. Nope. Moving on . . .
Not so fast. General Managers have short memories. Shoot, everyone does. I’d like to think Dave Dombrowski and A.J. Preller are playing Farmville with each other right now, or something like that. Plus, Hand doesn’t really have any injury red flags, and the Red Sox need a lefty. Their ‘pen has a revitalized Craig Kimbrel (dude’s Braves-filthy again), but Kimbrel might be their best left-handed reliever too. (It’s actually Fernando Abad, but he’s, well . . . the joke’s right there in his name). In fact, their whole relief corps after Kimbrel is thin; Matt Barnes is probably their second best reliever, or maybe it’s Wild Thing look-alike Joe Kelly.
The Red Sox might be the most logical landing spot for Hand in the American League.
The Trade: Hand for LHP Jason Groome
Maybe this is ambitious, but Groome injured his lat earlier this year and got absolutely shelled in his lone start in 2017. Not saying that means much, but it’s just a reminder that young pitchers are fragile. And pennants are forever, Mr. Dombrowski. We know the Padres were on Groome in last year’s draft, but the Red Sox swooped in and grabbed him at No. 12. We also know Dombrowski isn’t afraid to trade prospects when his team has a chance. He loves to, in fact.
It’s possible a deal like this could be sweetened by adding someone like Brandon Maurer, because I’m really not sure if even Dombrowski would deal a prospect as touted as Groome for a single late-blooming reliever.
Baltimore Orioles (29-26)
The Orioles check off all the boxes for a team that could use a Hand. They’re contenders, somehow, like they are every year. They’ve got a righty-heavy bullpen that’s somewhat under performing, with lefty relief ace Zach Britton on the disabled list with an unclear timetable for return. Even with a healthy Britton, they could be interested. Without him, it’s a natural fit. Thing is, their farm system ain’t great.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Kevin Gausman
Hey, who says no? Probably everyone. Gausman had a sort of breakout year last year, with a 3.61 ERA in 179 2/3 innings, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio has fallen all the way to 1.56 this year. On the other hand, he’s under control through 2020, so there’s a chance to rebuild him as a future trade piece or even a long-term anchor in the middle of the rotation.
Tampa Bay Rays (29-30)
The Rays have a surprisingly good offense (what happens if they win the Wil Myers-Trea Turner trade with Steven Souza?), and a decent rotation, and, as is a somewhat common theme so far, a pretty thin bullpen. With closer Alex Colome’s numbers down this year, Hand would arguably slot in as their best reliever; definitely their best lefty. Then again, the Rays don’t profile as a team that’s going to go all-in on a hot reliever, and they’re only borderline contenders as is.
The Trade: Hand for Jake Bauers
The Rays top three prospects—Willy Adames, Brent Honeywell, and Jose De Leon—all seem like too steep a price for them to be willing to pay. Bauers make some sense in that he used to be in the Padres system, but he’d also be a weird option in that he used to be in the Padres system (he was part of the Myers deal). Usually teams that trade away players aren’t all that keen on reacquiring them, but hey, it’s always an option, and the added familiarity doesn’t hurt.
Given the state of each team, not sure either of them would bite on this deal.
Toronto Blue Jays (28-29)
The Jays have quietly worked their way back into contention after a slow start, which makes them somewhat serious options here. Then again, they probably have bigger needs elsewhere, and Aaron Loup, their lefty in the ‘pen, is serviceable.
The Trade: Hand for OF/3B Lourdes Gurriel and 2B/SS Bo Bichette
Gurriel’s a Cuban import, just getting his stateside career started, and Bichette’s a recent high school draftee absolutely terrorizing the Midwest League as a 19-year-old. If this type of return is possible for the Padres, sign me up.
Minnesota Twins (29-24)
The Twins have a very good set of young position players, a intriguing one-two in Ervin Santana and the resurgent Jose Berrios, and a pretty cringeworthy bullpen. Brandon Klintzler hardly qualifies as a shutdown closer and Craig Breslow, with a 1.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio since 2013, masquerades as their go-to lefty. The Twins could pitch acquiring someone like Hand as them sort of going all-in, and they just witnessed division foe Cleveland go all the way to the World Series on the back of Andrew Miller. Hand’s got a little Miller in him . . . yes, just a little (alright, a little more than a little, but I didn’t say it). They’re a potential landing spot.
The Trade: Hand for SS Nick Gordon
It might seem like the Padres have a bunch of shortstops in the minors, and they sorta do. But Luis Urias is unlikely to stick at the position, Javier Guerra is still searching for it, Fernando Tatis Jr. is in Single-A and could transition to third eventually, and the recent J-2 signings are relative babies. Gordon’s no lock to stick at short either, but if you have enough guys with shortstop cred, one of them is likely to break through. Gordon’s currently OPSing .867 in Double-A as a 21-year-old, so there’s a lot to like here.
Cleveland Indians (29-26)
The Indians are obvious contenders, but they’ve got Andrew Miller and Boone Logan, plus good righties like Cody Allen, who’s still their closer. No way they’re shopping hard for Hand, you’d think, but they do love shortening games with a lights out bullpen, so, um, maybe.
Brief Miller aside: He’s been tremendous again, with 37 strikeouts, 5 walks, and no home runs in 26 1/3 innings. He’s mostly their eighth inning guy now, but Terry Francona and Co. still use him somewhat unconventionally, as he’s gone more than an inning in eight out of 23 appearances.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Triston McKenzie
McKenzie checks off most of the Preller boxes, a tall right hander with top shelf velocity. His performance has been excellent to boot, as he’s currently working on an 11.1 K/9 in High-A as a 19-year-old. He’d be quite the haul.
Detroit Tigers (28-28)
Outside of Cleveland and Minnesota, a trade to the rest of the AL Central seems unlikely. The Tigers are just fringe contenders, and the bullpen is the least of their worries. Plus, they actually have a legit lefty ace in Justin Wilson. This trade isn’t happening, but we’re going through the motions anyway.
The Trade: Hand for RHPs Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser
We’re working with the assumption that a team that doesn’t really need Hand would theoretically give up less to acquire him, not that Burrows and Funkhouser, a pair of projectable righty starters, wouldn’t be a good starting point. I’m still mildly concerned that I’m shooting too high for a Hand return here in general, so maybe this is just realistic. We’re dreamin’ big with some of these deals, no doubt.
Chicago White Sox (24-31)
Like with the Tigers, the White Sox definitely aren’t in the mix for a lefty reliever. They actually don’t have a quality lefty in the ‘pen, but overall their bullpen is fine, with closer David Robertson, Anthony Swarzak, and Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle’s working on one of the filthiest relief seasons this side of Craig Kimbrel; he’s got 39 strikeouts and five walks in just 21 innings this season after struggling to harness walk problems over his first three big-league seasons. Oh yeah, they’re pretty much rebuilding too.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Carson Fulmer and Luis Alexander Basabe
Whoa, the White Sox farm system is friggin’ loaded. Luis Robert is third on their list currently, per MLB, behind fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada and right-handed flamethrower Michael Kopech, who may or may not have thrown a pitched baseball 127 miles an hour once.
Fulmer has a big fastball himself and a power curve, but many peg him as a reliever long term. Basabe was acquired in the Chris Sale trade from Boston, the third piece behind Moncada and Kopech. Basabe is raw with a spotty performance track record, but he’s just 20 and possesses the kind of tools you’d expect from this genre of player. As a bonus, he has a baseball-playing twin brother with pretty much exactly the same name, which could help in some tomfoolery down the road.
Kansas City Royals (24-31)
The Royals are running two everyday players—Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar, to be specific—out there with a sub-.500 OPS. It’s June. C’mon guys. They do have a good lefty in the ‘pen in Mike Minor, a converted starter who hadn’t pitched in the bigs since 2014 before this season. This one’s for accounting purposes only.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Josh Staumont and OF Seuly Matias
Staumont’s another guy who fits the Preller mold, a 6-foot-3 righty with a fastball that touches 100. He’s got a good curve and a workable change; command seems like the major issue going forward. Preller hasn’t been afraid to take on projects like this, and there’s obvious upside here either as a starter or a shutdown reliever. Matias is another former international amateur signing, so I automatically assume that Preller knows what kind of cereal he prefers.
Houston Astros (41-16)
The Astros might be the best team in baseball, and it’s not just because they have the best record. They’re just really good. They have an excellent young core led by Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer. They’ve got two good catchers in Brian McCann and Evan Gattis. You don’t even think about Alex Bregman, but he’s still there. Shoot, Marwin Gonzalez is OPSing 1.040 in 154 plate appearances.
On the pitching side, Dallas Keuchel is back in form as one of the premier command pitchers in the game. Dude’s got good stuff and he knows where it’s going. Lance McCullers is developing into an ace-type strikeout pitcher, behind Keuchel, and there’s some depth in the rotation. The bullpen is solid, too, with Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, and Michael Feliz leading the way (Luke Gregerson’s still around, but he’s finally showing his age).
The one thing they don’t have? Yeah, it’s Brad Hand.
The ‘Stros best left-handed reliever is Tony Sipp. Since the start of last season, Sipp’s allowed 14 home runs in 58 innings, and his K-to-BB ratio is 2.12, pedestrian for a LOOGY type. Hand would instantly slot in as Houston’s main lefty, and he’d make their pen that much deeper.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Forrest Whitley and and SS Freudis Nova
It feels like smart teams are always going to be conservative trading for relief pitchers, but the Indians and Cubs, for example, have recently given up a bundle for Miller and Chapman, respectively. We’ve established that Hand isn’t on that level, but he’s still the kind of reliever who can help put a good team over the top, especially when you’re talking about playoff time.
Whitley’s a ginormous righty with a mid-90s fastball, a power curve, and a good changeup. He’s just 19 and performing well in the Midwest League. Nova, signed for $1.2 million in 2016 as an international amateur free agent, is an offensive-minded shortstop with a chance to stick at the position.
I almost considered including the more heralded shortstop Miguelangel Sierra here, but stuck with Nova as a Preller special. Sierra had a big time power explosion in the Appy League last year before crashing back to earth in the pitcher-friendly New York-Penn League; most say power won’t be a big part of his game, but he’s a slick defensive shortstop. Oddly, he hasn’t played a game yet in 2017 and I can’t find a reason why.
(Update No. 2: Sierra is headed back to Tri-City in the NYPL, which doesn’t start for a couple weeks Guessing he’s hanging around the Astros spring training complex now.)
Los Angeles Angels (29-31)
Hey, what are the Angels doing up here? They’ve lost both Mike Trout for a long spell and any chance at a surprise run to the postseason, despite a solid start. They have a decent ‘pen, with a workable lefty named Jose Alvarez (Bud Norris is their closer, believe it or not, and he’s pitching well). They’re not real contenders at this point, despite their position in the standings. They also have a super thin farm system.
The Trade (Do we have to? Okay): Hand for OFers Jahmai Jones and Brandon Marsh, and RHP Jaime Barria
I don’t know. I’m just throwing stuff at the wall here.
Seattle Mariners (28-30)
The Mariners are ahead of the Rangers in the standings, but, thanks to some key injuries, it feels like they don’t have much of a shot to make any noise. Currently, their starting rotation has James Paxton, who’s great, but also Ariel Miranda, Yovani Gallardo, and Christian Bergman, all less than great. They have two lefties in the pen, in Marc Rzepczynski and James Pazos, but they don’t feel like a likely destination for Hand anyway.
The Trade: Hand for OF Brayan Hernandez and RHP Thyago Vieira
The Mariners top two prospects, outfielders Kyle Lewis and Tyler O’Neill, don’t really work, Lewis because he’s too good of a prospect and O’Neill because he doesn’t quite seem to fit the Preller mold. Hernandez, according to MLB Pipeline, will “flash all five tools.” Everyone wants a five-tool player, of course, but Preller seems more inclined than most to gamble on one who maybe doesn’t have the performance track record. Vieira is strictly a reliever, but he throws 100 and is a good story.
Texas Rangers (26-31)
Unlike the Angles (and maybe Mariners), the Rangers might still see themselves as contenders. They’re only a few games back of the second wild card, and there’s a lot of season left. They’ve got enough good, young players where a midseason turnaround isn’t out of the cards.
Their bullpen is led by Old Friend Matt Bush, who’s pitching well. Outside of him, though, it’s righty heavy and not that good. The Rangers best (and only) lefty is Alex Claudio, and he’s struck out just 5.4 per nine over the last two years.
There’s also the Preller connection. It’s somewhat surprising that the Padres and Rangers, so much as I can recall, haven’t made many significant transactions since Preller left for San Diego (they did swap Will Venable and Marcus Greene Jr. back in 2015). Obviously Preller’s more familiar with this organization than any other outside the Padres, and the Rangers front office knows what kind of players Preller (and Don Welke) digs, too. On the other hand, maybe there’s some trepidation from each side to make a move, worried the other side knows too much.
The Trade: Hand for LHP Yohander Mendez and OF Jairo Beras
Mendez is a tall lefty, 22 years old, signed out of Venezuela for $1.5 million way back in the Preller years (2011). He’s taken a bit of a step back so far this year at Double-A, but obviously there’s some projection here. Beras might be a little on the nose, signed by Preller too amid plenty of age-related controversy. He’s really not too great of a prospect, either, and the Rangers are actually considering converting him to a pitcher (he throws 98). Still, he feels like the type of player Preller would take a chance on as a bit piece in a deal, if not the exact one.
Oakland A’s (24-32)
The A’s are perpetually weird, so you can really never count them out of making any deal. But, nah, probably not this one.
The Trade: Hand for Lazaro Armenteros
Not gonna happen, but it’s a good excuse to talk about Armenteros, who’s one of the few top international players the Padres missed out on in the 2016-2017 signing period. “Lazarito” is an outfielder from Cuba, and kind of typical of this sort of player, he has loud tools but may need some refinement to succeed in the states. MLB Pipeline only has him ranked eighth in the A’s system currently (BA 11th, BP not ranked in top 10), and it’s just an okay system. That’s somewhat low considering the hype, but there’s probably some hesitation given the lack of pro experience (and question marks about his swing, etc.).
The other top international guys the Padres missed out on are (depending on your rankings of choice) shortstop Kevin Maitan, widely considered the No. 1 international prospect in the class, right-handed pitcher Vladimir Guitierrez, and Cuban outfielder Luis Robert.
Washington Nationals (35-20)
Unlike some of the other bullpens we’ve discussed, like the Red Sox (without a great lefty) or the Astros (same thing), the Nationals ‘pen just flat out stinks. Per FanGraphs, they have the 26th ranked bullpen in all of baseball by FIP. Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen, who were supposed to battle for the closer’s role early in the year, have given up a combined nine home runs and 20 walks in 38 1/3 innings. Koda Glover and Matt Albers have both been good, but it feels like some smoke and mirrors are being deployed there. Further, their two lefty relievers are Oliver Perez and Enny Romero, and neither are to be trusted in an important situation.
Washington is one of the only logical fits where Hand would not only instantly qualify as his new team’s best lefty, he’d qualify as his new team’s best reliever, period. The Nationals can win the division without relief reinforcements, because they have Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Murphy, a revitalized Ryan Zimmerman, etc. But once the playoffs come, and Cody Bellinger or Anthony Rizzo is up in a big spot late in a critical game, the current Nationals team becomes as vulnerable as anyone else.
The Trade: Hand for SS Luis Garcia and LHP Jesus Lazardo
Any of the Nationals top ranked prospects, outside of outfielder Victor Robles, could be in play here. But Preller, and the Padres front office in general, often seem to take the less obvious approach. Garcia’s ranked ninth in Washington’s system by MLP Pipeline and he missed the top 10 altogether by Baseball Prospectus, but he was ranked seventh by Baseball America coming into the season, ahead of shortstop Carter Kieboom (FanGraphs, too, had him just ahead of Kieboom).
Signed out of the Dominican Republic last year, it’s hard to know how much interest Preller and the Padres would have given that they didn’t sign him. Of course, you can’t sign everyone, and sometimes players make verbal deals with a certain team well in advance that might be based on comfort or circumstance. Just recently turned 17, Garcia would fit the Padres mold of a young, up-the-middle position player with tools galore. Lazardo had Tommy John surgery in 2016, but was ramping it up to 97 in high school before going down. He was still taken 94th overall in the draft and given $1.4 million to sign, which tells you something about the upside. Both players have yet to make their professional debuts.
Atlanta Braves (24-30)
The Braves are almost certainly not looking for a late-inning lefty. They’re clearly rebuilding, even though they oddly signed a bunch of so-so veterans recently, like Bartolo Colon (who’s fun, but may finally be nearing the end), R.A. Dickey (who has more walks than strikeouts), and Nick Markakis (who is doing exactly what you’d expect). Had star first baseman Freddie Freeman not gotten injured, you could argue that this team was a fringe contender this year, had good fortune been on their side. Not anymore.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Ian Anderson
Even though a trade here isn’t happening, the Braves farm system is loaded. Anderson is a 19-year-old, 6-foot-3 power arm, drafted third overall in 2016 out of high school. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s, but has touched 97, according to Baseball America. He’s the typical power pitcher that the Padres (or most any team) would target, and even though there’s plenty of risk, he’s the type of player you’d love to receive for Hand.
Miami Marlins (24-31)
The Marlins seem to be in a constant state of rebuilding, thanks in large part to their penny-pinching owner Jeffrey Loria. Give them some credit, though: they have a knack for finding exciting young talent, be it Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, or (the much missed) Jose Fernandez. Even Justin Bour is crushing. Then again, their like a five or 10 game winning streak from approaching contention, and it’s tough to bet on that with their pitching staff.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Tyler Kolek and RHP Kyle Barraclough
Miami’s farm system has Braxton Garrett but is otherwise very thin, at least in terms of bonafide stud prospects. Koley hasn’t pitched since 2015, missing last season with Tommy John. He’s your prototypical right-handed power pitcher, but there are question marks abound. Barraclough a big-league reliever with a control problem, but he struck out the planet last year, and Darren Balsley could always use more projects.
New York Mets (24-31)
I don’t think I ever wrote about it, but I swear I wanted the Padres to try to acquire Michael Conforto sometime over the last year or two, when the Mets were sour on him for whatever reason. That ship has sailed now, with Conforto establishing himself as the best hitter on the team (and, perhaps, one of the better ones in the league). Anyway, the Thor-less Mets barely look like contenders right now, and even if they turn it around, they have a dominant lefty in Jerry Blevens, who’s struck out 29 batters in 19 innings this year.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Robert Gsellman
The Mets don’t have many obvious candidates on the farm for a theoretical deal, so we’ll go outside-the-box here. Gsellman had an excellent debut year in 2016, gaining a bunch of prospect steam in the process, but he’s kind of fallen apart this year, at least by the surface numbers. The peripherals aren’t bad and he’s not yet 24 with a bunch of years of control left. Outside of prospects, buying low on this kind of player could be another option for the Padres.
Philadelphia Phillies (19-35)
The Phillies are kind of in that lull stage of the rebuild, where you get a little worried that things aren’t quite working. Aaron Altherr has had a breakout season offensively, but two of their best position players, Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera, have taken major steps back. Same thing on the pitching side, with most of their promising young hurlers sporting ERAs north of five. They’re probably fine long term, and they’ve got helping coming on the farm, but it hasn’t been the best start for them in 2017. And, yeah, they aren’t looking for a Hand.
The Trade: Hand for OF Odubel Herrera
We’re 4,400 words into an article, making up trades that will never happen. What are we doing here? After two solid seasons, Herrera is struggling to hit his weight, he’s striking out more and walking less, and he’s no longer running on the bases. I haven’t looked into it too closely, but you’d think maybe he was hurt on first glace. He’s got a super long, team-friendly contract, and it’s entirely possible the Phillies haven’t lost confidence in him for the long run.
Milwaukee Brewers (30-27)
Of all the rebuilding teams, the Brewers might have the most fun major-league roster. They’ve been tremendous at finding cheap, talented players. Eric Thames, who looks like a star, was signed for a bargain out of South Korea. Travis Shaw, who we mentioned earlier, is performing well and was acquired for a reliever who’s currently injured. Center fielder Keon Broxton was acquired from the Pirates a few years back in a bit move, and he’s solid. The catcher tandem of Jett Bandy and Manny Pina have the seventh-best wRC+ in baseball.
The bullpen has some serious holes and is lefty-less, however. If the Brewers are still in the thick of the race, it’s not inconceivable that they’d be in the market for a reliever. It’d be a little strange, since they traded two or three of them away over the last year, but sometimes the rebuild comes together faster than you think.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Phil Bickford and SS Mauricio Dubon
Hey, what the heck. We discussed both of these guys up top, and both were centerpieces of deals that brought in similar relievers to Hand. Bickford took a bit of a step back last year upon moving to the Brewers org, and he’s not yet back from a 50-game drug suspension this year. Dubon is performing solidly enough in Double-A, but he hasnt’ quite matched his offensive breakout from 2016.
Chicago Cubs (28-27)
The Cubs are still one of the best team’s in the league, but it’s fair to say they’re suffering from a bit of an extended post-World Series hangover. Despite the struggles, they’re still right there. But they do have a stacked bullpen, with Wade Davis, Carl Edwards, and Koji Uehara leading the way. They’ve also got an interesting lefty in Brian Duensing, who’s working on an 11.0 K/9 this year after striking out just 6.2 per nine as a reliever from 2013 to 2016. If the Cubs make any trades, and they probably will, it seems more likely they’ll shop for a starter or some offensive firepower over a reliever.
The Trade: Hand for OF Albert Almora
Almora’s received 227 plate appearances with the big club over the last two years, producing near average offense overall. He’s more polish and less tools, which maybe doesn’t jibe with a typical Padres acquisition. That said, he has good prospect pedigree and solid minor-league performance, and could instantly slot into the Padres outfield mix.
St. Louis Cardinals (26-28)
The Cardinals best hitter this year has been Jedd Gyorko. How about that? (Sorry Chris.) They’ve got a really deep, steady starting rotation, which could keep them around until late in the season. The bullpen’s fine, but without a good lefty. If they fashion themselves as true contenders by the middle of July, Hand would make plenty of sense.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Sandy Alcantara
Alcantara had the look of a fast-rising prospect before the season, so I’m keeping this a one-for-one deal. He is struggling out of the gate this year, with a 6.45 ERA in Double-A. Still, he had reached Baseball Prospectus’ top 100 this winter, checking in all the way at No. 40, and he sometimes throws 100. Command appears the be the major issue, which is always a concern. We’re beating a dead horse here, but he fits San Diego’s preference for big time velocity and stuff.
Pittsburgh Pirates (26-31)
Guess who the Pirates main lefty out of the ‘pen is? It’s Old Friend Wade LeBlanc. LeBlanc’s ironed out a home run issue that plagued him last year (and many other years), and it makes him somewhat effective. I’m not sure having LeBlanc would keep any team from pursuing someone like Hand, but it feels like the Pirates are a long way off from contention either way.
The Trade: Hand for 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes and RHP Yeudy Garcia
Hayes isn’t hitting for any power at High-A this year, but he has 17 steals in 20 tries and a .360 on-base percentage, so it’s an interesting profile. Garcia is like a clone of Dinelson Lamet, so I had to include him (I love Lamet, by the way.). He was signed as an atypically old 20-year-old in international free agency, like Lamet, and naturally he’s been a little old for his leagues. He’s also been good performance-wise, though he’s taken a step back this year. Like Lamet, there’s big time velo with a good slider and a work-in-progress change.
Cincinnati Reds (25-30)
The Reds are only a few games back of .500, in large part because they’ve got guys like Joey Votto and Zack Cosart annihilating rawhide every night. The starting rotation is bad, though. Really bad. Like, make-the-Padres-rotation blush bad. They aren’t looking to add anything like Brad: The Hand of Fate just yet, most likely.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Luis Castillo and OF Aristides Aquino
Remember Castillo? He was the guy who went back to Miami in the Colin Rea deal, when the Marlins wanted to play a little take-backsies. Apparently the Marlins and Castillo just weren’t meant to be, as Miami up and traded him to Cincinnati this winter, with two other players, for Dan Straily. He looks like a really good pitcher, with a mid-90s (and up) fastball and solid secondaries. He’s currently dominating Double-A as a 24-year-old, with a 6.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Aquino’s first name is the same as Manny Ramirez’s middle name, so I’m not sure what else I have to say here. (He’s an athletic, toolsy outfielder currently scuffling some at Double-A after a breakout last year.)
Colorado Rockies (36-23)
The Rockies have an 89 OPS+ on offense and a 118 ERA+ on the pitching side. That feels like a familiar story with them, due to the quirkiness of playing at Coors, but sometimes it’s hard to notice. The rotation has been good, but it feels like a house of cards. Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland have paced the staff, but they both have low strikeout totals and underwhelming peripherals. The bullpen’s good too, although left hander Mike Dunn’s been a major disappointment. The Rockies have another lefty, though, in Jake McGee, and he’s not ostensibly worse than Hand. This doesn’t feel like a great fit.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Riley Pint
Not happening, but Pint, drafted fourth overall last year, is an interesting case study in fastball velocity. This guy sits at 97, with plus secondaries, but he’s posted a 0.96 strikeout-to-walk ratio (22 strikeouts and 23 walks in 35 2/3 innings) this year in the Cal League. No matter how hard you throw, or how good your stuff is, professional hitters will make you pay if the command or sequencing is off. There’s plenty of time left for Pint, but his stuff isn’t playing against good hitters.
Los Angeles Dodgers (35-23)
You’ve gotta think that both teams are comfortable trading with each other, given the blockbuster Yasmani Grandal-for-Matt Kemp deal back in 2014 (although the Padres maybe less so). Grandal, by the way, might be the Dodgers best position player—that is, if you believe in pitch framing at all (and why wouldn’t you?). Per Baseball Prospectus, which uses its own framing numbers in its WARP statistic, Grandal has already been worth two wins this year, and a whopping 13.2 since heading to LA. The emergence of Austin Hedges (1.6 WARP this year) has lessened the sting somewhat. Still, very bad trade.
Anyway, the Dodgers are nearly back in their rightful position atop the division, and once they get there it’s unlikely they’ll be caught. Along with a superb young core that includes Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, they’ve got Clayton Kershaw and about 15 other decent-to-good rotation options. They also have a loaded bullpen, led by Kenley Jansen and buoyed by Josh Fields and Ross Stripling. Even Old Friend Brandon Morrow is back and looking good early. Like a number of other prime contenders, though, they don’t have a big time lefty. Grant Dayton could be, I suppose, but he’s got a limited track record and some home run issues in a relatively small sample.
They could definitely use another good reliever, especially when you look back at how they’ve lost some postseason series in the past.
The Trade: Hand for OFers Yusniel Diaz and D.J. Peters
I was seriously contemplating Yasiel Puig here, but he’s only under contract through 2019, so he doesn’t exactly fit the Padres plans. The Dodgers have a good system, though it’s thinned out some due to recent call-ups and trades. Diaz might not be eye-popping as the major piece here, as he’s hitting just .242/.317/.335 in a second go around at the California League. Overall, though, he has a balanced skill-set and plus tools across the board. I read a couple of glowing scouting reports on him last year, including this one from BP’s Wilson Karaman. Karaman’s noted that the Dodgers have attempted to make some swing adjustments this year, and everything’s out of whack. There’s a lot to like here beyond this year’s poor performance.
Peters, drafted in the fourth round in 2016, is OPSing .853 as a 21-year-old in High-A, but he’s striking out 34.1 percent of the time. At a hulking 6-foot-6 with plenty of athleticism, Peters qualifies as more than just a throw-in.
Arizona Diamondbacks (34-25)
The Diamondbacks are pulling off something similar to the Rockies, with somewhat under performing hitters and great numbers from the pitching side, ranking seventh in team DRA. The bullpen has been good, too, but interestingly it hasn’t necessarily come from the pitchers you’d expect, like one-time closer Fernando Rodney. Instead, Andrew Chafin, Randall Delgado (who’s in the rotation now), and Archie Bradley have been their best relievers thus far. Chafin is a lefty with a solid performance history, and he’s currently striking out nearly 13 batters per nine. The D’backs also have lefty Jorge De La Rosa as a converted starter, but he’s yet to solve his previous problem of consistently getting big-league hitters out.
The D’backs aren’t a bad fit for Hand in the sense that any contender would like to add another good reliever, but they don’t really stand out as a super obvious fit.
The Trade: Hand for SS Domingo Leyba and SS Jasrado Chisholm
Arizona’s farm system ain’t too hot, gutted by the previous Tony La Russa-led regime. We’re raiding it for shortstops here, and both of these guys offer some upside. Leyba hasn’t played all year thanks to a shoulder tear that doesn’t require surgery. He had a nice season last year and projects more as a second baseman than a shortstop. Chisholm isn’t have a great offensive year at Single-A, but it’s his first crack at full-season ball and he has a better shot of sticking at short.
San Francisco Giants (23-35)
The Giants only have three players with an OPS+ on the right side of 100, and that includes all of the guys with just a few plate appearances and the pitchers (Madison Bumgarner is one of them). With Bumgarner hurt and Johnny Cueto off his usual beat, Buster Posey is really the only good thing the Giants have going. They’re not in the Hand sweepstakes.
The Trade: Hand for RHP Tyler Beede
I’m struggling to find someone that fits even for this make-believe deal that isn’t going to happen. Beede doesn’t have that top shelf velo and he’s getting knocked around in Triple-A. I’m not sure the Padres would make this deal, in a parallel universe where the Giants were good, but I’m not going to think about it too much.
Nobody’s made it this far, anyway.
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