3:30pm: Hand is indeed discussing multi-year deals with teams, Jesse Rogers of ESPN tweets.
11:53am: The Mets’ interest in lefty Brad Hand was already known, but SNY’s Andy Martino provides some additional context on the club’s pursuit, reporting that New York has been seeking a one-year pact that would pay Hand a bit less than the $10MM price point at which all 30 clubs passed on claiming him earlier this offseason. Hand, however, is seeking at least a two-year arrangement.
Two years for Hand has seemed plausible throughout the winter, and recent multi-year pacts for Blake Treinen ($17.5MM total) and Liam Hendriks ($54MM total) only further lend credence to the idea that he’d be justified seeking two or more years despite going unclaimed at season’s end. Notably, Martino suggests in a follow-up tweet that had the Mets’ sale to Steve Cohen gone through just days earlier, the team almost certainly would’ve claimed Hand. The Mets’ sale was finalized on Nov. 6; Hand cleared waivers on Oct. 30.
At the time Hand cleared waivers, there was surely some hesitancy from owners to commit to any notable salary additions given the uncertainty of what the upcoming 2021 season would look like. There’s still no way of definitively knowing, of course, but commissioner Rob Manfred recently instructed clubs to prepare for a full 162-game slate and for Spring Training to start on time. We don’t yet know what fan attendance will look like, however, which has hampered spending and slowed the free-agent market.
That said, there’s been plenty of interest in Hand — clearly just not at the multi-year level he prefers. In addition to the Mets, he’s been linked to the Dodgers, Blue Jays, Astros and White Sox. Reports tying Hand to L.A. and Chicago predated that pair’s respective signings of Treinen and Hendriks, so it’s possible that the extent of their interest has changed.
Based on track record, Hand stands out as the clear top lefty reliever on the market. He’s pitched to a combined 2.70 ERA and 2.79 SIERA over the past five seasons while striking out exactly one-third of the hitters he’s faced against just an 8.1 percent walk rate.
However, Hand did show some red flags in 2020, as his once 94.1 mph average fastball velocity dipped to 91.8 mph — his second straight year of a notable decline. He also benefited from a career-low .255 average on balls in play, and Hand certainly can’t be expected to go an entire season — or even 22 straight innings — without allowing a single home run again as he did in 2020. Today’s teams are far more concerned with what they project a player will do over the life of his contract than what the player has done leading up to said contract, which may help explain the disconnect between Hand’s track record his market to this point.