The Padres have traded Brad Hand, along with setup man Adam Cimber, to the Indians in exchange for C/OF prospect Francisco Mejia, MLB.com’s No. 15 overall prospect. Baseball America ranked Mejia No. 24 on their list and Keith Law had him at No. 5, so we’re talking about a pretty elite prospect no matter what. The Padres plan to keep him at catcher, according to several reports.
This seems like a really low price for two very solid relievers and makes my assessment below look really off-base as a result. The Padres had been asking about Javy Baez for Hand (though it wasn’t just a 1-to-1 deal) this winter and all reports were that the asking price was high. Not to give Mejia short shrift, but still. Wow.
It’s no secret that the Cubs are searching for pitching depth as the deadline approaches. Heck, they’ve practically been screaming it from the rooftops. There’s this common refrain that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are good about not showing their collective hand — pun sort of intended — but that’s really not the case. They’ve been pretty transparent this season and in those past when it comes to their strategy.
“We’ll be on the lookout for rotation depth and in the bullpen, no matter what, but this underscores that a little bit,” Hoyer said last month when Adbert Alzolay went down with a lat injury.
The GM echoed those same thoughts when he joined 670 The Score’s Bernstein and McKnight last week.
“We’re going to be talking to a lot of teams about pitching and pitching depth ahead of the deadline. We got away with it in ’16, riding (Aroldis) Chapman hard. We probably didn’t have the necessary depth in the bullpen. The game is played different in the playoffs.”
This would seem to narrow the focus more to relievers, which makes sense for a team that expects to get Yu Darvish back at some point in August. It makes even more sense when that same team has seen what can happen when you don’t have enough trustworthy options to handle late innings on the big stage.
It’s one thing to come into the 6th or 7th frame of a two-run game in July and quite another to do so in October. In the playoffs, almost every inning is high-leverage. As such, you can’t really expect Joe Maddon to maintain trust in Randy Rosario, Anthony Bass, and Luke Farrell. Nor should he have to. But equally dangerous is throwing Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, and Brandon Morrow every game.
And that’s why we keep seeing the Cubs connected to the Padres’ Brad Hand and the Orioles’ Zach Britton, both of who have experience closing games. The competition will be fierce for both, though, especially as NL contenders look to bolster their bullpens for what figures to be a trio of tight division races.
The Athletic’s Dennis Lin tweeted that the Phillies, who missed out on Manny Machado, “are one of many teams interested in Brad Hand.” He went on to reinforce what we’ve been hearing about the lefty, which is that the “price has remained very high.”
The Phillies are one of many teams interested in Brad Hand. The price has remained very high, though. “Would be an awesome addition to any pen,” one scout said. https://t.co/WqmnMCbDBx
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) July 18, 2018
A rough last month — 8.00 ERA, 4.14 FIP in 9 IP — may have dulled a little of the luster there, but Hand still has three possible years of control remaining at a max of $23.5 million. And acquiring him now would leave his new team on the hook for only around $1.5 million of his $3.5 million salary this season. So you’re paying for value in addition to performance.
That high price might end up being way too high for the Cubs to consider. You may recall that they had engaged the Padres in talks about both Hand and starter Dinelson Lamet at the Winter Meetings, with each team balking at the other’s asking price. In the Padres’ case, that ask was none other than Ednel Javier Baez, who’s even more untouchable now than he was in December.
Lin also wrote that the Cubs’ domination of the Padres last week was another reminder that San Diego still has a great need for impact position players(subscription required/recommended), something the Cubs have more than a few of. But would they be willing to part with the right one(s) to pry Hand loose from the Padres’ grip? And that’s without even considering the potential involvement of the Phillies, Indians, and Yankees in the bidding.
David Bote has made a nice name for himself in several brief stints with the Cubs this season, though he hardly seems like a centerpiece and is already blocked at the corners in SD. Then you go to Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr., who provide great value and production in their own right. This doesn’t seem like one the Cubs will be able to make work.
Zach Britton is the next option, and one that might be much more affordable from a trade perspective. When you see that Machado brought back a haul of five prospects, only one of whom — Yusniel Diaz — ranked in MLB.com’s top 100, it’s easy to assume Britton would command much less.
Not only is his impact mitigated by his usage, but he’s only been active for a month after recovering from a torn Achilles and fought through several injuries prior to that. We’ve discussed here before how he makes a lot of sense for the Cubs, but there are at least seven other contenders scouting him and the Orioles may be hot to move him now that the Machado deal has set the wheels of their rebuild in real motion.
The Orioles have long been in search of young pitching, which has been the Cubs’ Achilles heel — pun fully intended — over the last few years. As such, it’s easy to see another team being willing and able to part with a prospect or two that would more desirable to Baltimore in exchange for a couple months of Britton’s services.
We then move to the Rays’ Nathan Eovaldi, another pitcher with an expiring contract who is likely to be moved by the end of July. The Cubs have been interested in him in the past and he’s pitching really well, but the price for him might be a little lower due to both his short-term status and the fact that he’s only pitched 51 innings since coming back from his second Tommy John surgery back in 2016.
There are certainly some other directions in which the Cubs could end up going, but these three names have come up most frequently. If forced to handicap the field, I’d rank them Britton, Eovaldi, Hand in order of most to least likely. Which means that they’ll either get Hand or go completely off the board.
As a quick aside, the Brewers figure to be very active in looking for a backup now that they’ve officially failed to land Machado. Minnesota’s slugging second baseman, Brian Dozier, has been mentioned quite frequently. He’d give the Brewers more pop, though it still probably wouldn’t be enough to overtake the Cubs’ offensive prowess.
Thoughts on who the Cubs should or should not target? Do you think they can or should part with a player from the 25-man roster? We’ve got less than two weeks until the deadline.