The Padres’ David Post, who’s a special assistant to general manager A.J. Preller, has been following the Yankees’ Triple-A team in Scranton Wilkes/Barre, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. There’s a sense in the industry that Post is doing so because the Yankees are interested in coveted Padres reliever Brad Hand, according to King.
This isn’t the first recent connection between these teams, as the Padres contacted the Yankees about their No. 1 prospect, Triple-A infielder Gleyber Torres, in June. It remains difficult to imagine the Yankees moving the highly regarded Torres, though, despite the fact that he underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last month.
While Torres is unable to take the field and other touted youngsters in outfielder Clint Frazier and utilityman Tyler Wade are currently in the majors, the Yankees still have a couple intriguing pieces at the Triple-A level. Right-hander Chance Adams, Baseball America’s 56th-ranked prospect, and third baseman Miguel Andujar jump to the fore. The 22-year-old Andujar, who got a brief taste of major league action last month, is the Yankees’ ninth-best prospect, per MLB Pipeline.
The Yankees also have enticing prospects at lower levels, so it’s possible the Padres could ask for youth from both Triple-A and elsewhere if the two discuss Hand. While that’s merely speculation, it is easy to see why the Yankees would want to upgrade their bullpen. Their relievers rank an impressive sixth in the majors in ERA and seventh in fWAR, but the group has been instrumental in a 7-17 skid that has seen the Yankees drop from first place in the AL East to 3.5 games back in the division and only a game up in the wild-card race.
Longtime relief aces Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances haven’t been their usual lights-out selves, and fellow established veteran Tyler Clippard has pitched more like a DFA candidate than someone capable of handling high-leverage innings. Hand looks worthy of taking the ball in key situations, though, considering he’s in the midst of his second straight excellent season. The 27-year-old southpaw ranks fourth among relievers in innings (47) and has registered a 2.30 ERA, 11.49 K/9, 2.49 BB/9 and a 48.6 percent ground-ball rate. Hand, a first-time All-Star, has also dominated hitters from either side of the plate, having held lefties to a .192/.300/.365 line and righties to an even weaker .203/.262/.293.
Hand’s production indicates his presence would be a boon to any contender’s bullpen this season, and with two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining, he’d be more than a Band-Aid. Of course, those factors – not to mention his cheap salary ($1.375MM) – will make Hand one of the majors’ most in-demand players around the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Given that they’re in a full rebuild, the Padres will probably cash in Hand for prospects in the coming weeks, but it’s not so easy to believe that the Yankees will end up with him. General manager Brian Cashman is only a year removed from giving up the since-re-signed Chapman and arguably the best left-handed reliever in baseball, Andrew Miller, in deals to boost his farm system. As effective as Hand has been, the idea of Cashman reversing course 12 months later and surrendering high-end youth for a reliever seems improbable.