With the current economic climate of the United States, many interesting and surprising moves with be made in strictly cost saving measures.
The first significant move of the 2021 offseason was made this afternoon, when the Indians placed closer Brad Hand on outright waivers. In what is a money saving move, the Indians are hoping that some team will claim Hand and his $10 million club option for 2021. Cleveland, like the rest of the MLB, is feeling the effects of the pandemic, but this move is still questionable at best.
Hand has been one of the most consistent bullpen pitchers over the last five seasons with the Padres and Indians. In the shortened 2020 season, he pitched 22 innings with an ERA of 2.05 and a K/9 rate of 11.86. He hasn’t averaged under 11 K/9 since 2015. Hand led the American League with 16 saves, while posting a 22-4 K/BB ratio this past season. Averaging 91.4 mph on his fastball, he pairs his heater with a devastating slider, making him nearly unhittable, as shown be his .229 career average against.
As I mentioned in my Adam Morgan article, with the three batter minimum rule, it is important that a pitcher can get hitters on both sides of the plate out. Hand has shown an ability to do just that, as righties hit .174 and lefties hit .125 off of him in 2020. For his career, the numbers are more spread out at .251 and .187, respectively, but Hand didn’t find his groove until he was traded to San Diego in 2016 offseason.
No team this year, and in the history of the MLB, has had a bullpen worse than the 2020 Phillies did. Finishing with an ERA over seven through 60 games is horrendous, and the team will have to commit a good portion of the money they spend this offseason to fixing the holes there.
Adding a player of Hand’s ilk allows the Phillies to focus on rounding out the rest of the bullpen during the offseason. The heavy lifting to improve the bullpen would be over, allowing the Phillies to make moves around the margins to fill the rest of the holes.
Adding Hand will go a long way in improving the league’s worst pen from last season, and arguably the worst the last two seasons. His club option of $10 million is not much money for the level of production you will be getting from Hand, and he will instantly become the closer and best bullpen pitcher that the Phillies have. If Hand goes unclaimed, the Indians will likely pay his $1 million buyout, allowing him to become a free agent. Instead of dealing with most of the teams in the Major Leagues, the Phillies can just claim him and pay the man his $10 million salary for 2021.
No one expected this kind of move from the Indians, but looking at it now, it makes sense. Cleveland has been known to be one of the cheaper teams in the MLB, with them taking trade offers on superstar SS Francisco Lindor because he will be likely out of their price range. This is when a big market team like the Phillies has to step up to the plate. While the team has said multiple times that it would like to cut payroll this offseason, the prospect of adding a Top-5 bullpen arm to the backend of your bullpen would be way too hard to pass up.
This will truly be a measuring stick as to see how much the cash has actually dried up this year. While the Phillies have lost a reported $186 million in revenue this season, they still have to improve the on field product. If teams are going to start cutting good players because they are making just a little bit too much, the Phillies should be licking their chops
This is exactly the type of move to start doing that.
Come on, John. This is the time to put your money where your mouth is.