The Padres recently reaffirmed to clubs that they’re “open for business,” and lefty reliever Brad Hand is the “primary” piece that they have on the table at present, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link).
San Diego’s willingness to sell off pieces isn’t exactly a new development, though the fact that the Padres are marketing Hand (or are at least willing to part with him) is of note. It does not, however, seem that there have been any serious trade discussions regarding Hand just yet; Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune tweets that the Friars have had some “very preliminary” on the lefty. Lin adds in a full column that Hand has “emerged as a coveted trade piece.”
It’s early in the year to see a trade for such a notable commodity take place, though the Padres have been a definitive seller for quite some time now, so perhaps they’d be more willing than most to move a quality reliever. The 27-year-old Hand may not be a household name, but he’s emerged as a dominant relief arm since the Padres plucked him off waivers from the Marlins in early April last year.
Since joining the Padres, Hand has turned in 115 1/3 innings of 2.65 ERA ball with a 146-to-46 K/BB ratio. He’s held left-handed opponents to a comical .123/.234/.221 batting line in that time but also shut down right-handed batters to the tune of a .219/.295/.350 triple slash.
That level of excellence figures to appeal to just about any club in need of bullpen help, but the most appealing aspect in a potential Hand trade could be the amount of club control remaining on his contract. The former second-round pick still has two years of control beyond the 2017 season remaining, and he’s earning a modest $1.375MM in 2017. That makes him financially affordable for virtually any team in the Majors, although the low salary and considerable amount of control remaining should also make the Padres’ asking price rather substantial.
It’s also worth noting that struggles from Hand’s teammate, Brandon Maurer, have opened up the ninth-inning picture in San Diego somewhat. Maurer worked the eighth inning tonight in a one-run game (and fired a perfect frame against the Mets), while Hand was tabbed for the save by manager Andy Green. The outing wasn’t exactly pretty — Hand loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk before recording an out — but Hand did manage to fire a scoreless inning to notch his third career save. Green, however, said after the game that Hand is not necessarily his new closer (Twitter link via MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell). Rather, the Padres will take save opportunities on a case-by-case basis and mix in both Maurer and Hand.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd listed Hand among the game’s likeliest summer trade candidates last week when previewing some names to keep an eye on as the July 31 non-waiver deadline draws nearer. Hand figures to be just one of many assets that the Padres market to rival clubs this summer as general manager A.J. Preller continues his effort to stock his farm system and build a sustainable contender. Trevor Cahill, assuming he returns to health, would be another ideal trade candidate for the Padres. Names like Yangervis Solarte, Clayton Richard and perhaps Maurer (if he regains his form) also figure to frequent the rumor circuit this summer.