The San Diego Padres extended star reliever Brad Hand on Saturday, giving him a new three-year contract. Hand, who was set to be a free agent after 2019, is now under control until 2021. However, the Padres are a rebuilding team, and Hand is getting closer to 30-years old. This begs the question: Will Hand last the entirety of this contract in San Diego?
Hand drew a lot of interest around the Trade Deadline because of his dominating season. Hand was not traded, and finished with a 2.16 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 79.1 innings. Hand began his career in the Miami Marlins organization, but struggled heavily, finishing his time there with a 9-25 record and a 4.71 ERA. The Padres ultimately claimed him off waivers in 2016.
There is an argument to be made that the Padres could simply hold on to Hand. Why wouldn’t they? Hand is one of the top relievers in the game and can be used in any late inning situation, though it’s most likely he’ll be used as a closer in 2018. This gives their starters piece of mind when they turn the ball over late in the game with the lead.
However, thanks to the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals run, there has been a growing emphasis on late inning bullpen arms. We’ve seen teams like the Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, and Chicago Cubs attempt to build star-powered bullpens in recent years and they’ve seen success.
With Hand now locked up, and demand on relief arms higher than ever before, is this extension more of a way to increase Hand’s trade value? Now that the acquiring team would have Hand for longer than one season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see a team pay more than they would have last July.
A team like the Washington Nationals could pay out a prospect package in exchange for receiving one of the top southpaw relievers in the game. This would work for both sides. The Nat’s are trying to compete, but have been hampered by bullpen problems. They did somewhat fix this, acquiring Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the Oakland Athletics last season.
However, Madson is approaching 37 and is a free agent after 2019. Grabbing Hand would allow the team to let Madson go and get a bit younger. The Padres would get a prospect package that would help that rebuild along. This is just an example.
My prediction: Hand will be traded either this year or next. It benefits San Diego more in the long run to move him than it does to keep him.
Photo Credit: Charlie Neuman/San Diego Union Tribune