How much might an elite reliever like Brad Hand cost for Phillies?

Jim Salisbury
·3 min read

Phillies bullpen could sure use a Hand, but how much would it cost? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies spent over $700 million on free agents the last three offseasons. Spending all over baseball could be impacted this winter by revenues lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that's not going to stop us from taking a daily look these next few weeks at some free agents who would fill needs and help the Phillies get better.

Today: Lefty closer Brad Hand

Career to date

Hand is one of the many examples of a pitcher drafted in a high round who needed time, a change of scenery and a steady role to find himself as a dependable contributor in the major leagues. 

The left-hander was selected out of his Minnesota high school by the Marlins in the second round of the 2008 draft. He debuted in the majors in 2011 and spent the better part of five seasons bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen.

Hand pitched to a 5.30 ERA in 2015 and the Marlins waived him the following spring. San Diego claimed him in April 2016 and since then he has made three All-Star teams and become one of the best relievers in baseball. Funny game, as Charlie Manuel used to say.

Since the start of the 2016 season, Hand has a 2.70 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 320 innings. He has struck out 12.2 batters per nine innings and walked 3.0 per nine innings over that span. Left-handed batters have hit .150 and struck out in 42 percent of their at-bats against Hand since the start of 2016.

Hand was traded to Cleveland during the 2018 season and continued to shine with the Indians. He had 34 saves in 2019 and led the majors with 16 during the shortened 2020 season. 

The Indians, facing a budget crunch that will likely result in them trading star shortstop Francisco Lindor this winter, placed Hand on waivers last month to avoid paying his $10 million salary for 2021. No team bit on Hand, making him a very attractive free agent heading into his age-31 season.

2020 season

Hand had a magnificent season as the Indians' closer in 2020. He went 16 for 16 in save situations, recorded a 2.05 ERA, struck out 29 and walked just four in 22 innings. He gave up just 13 hits, none of which landed over the wall.

How he’d impact the Phillies

The Phillies had a historically bad bullpen in 2020. It recorded a 7.06 ERA, the worst in the majors since 1930, and basically cost them a shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 2011. A thorough overhaul of the unit is needed. In other words, the Phils need to add several solid relievers. Hand would be a great place to start.

The Phillies rank 22nd in the majors in save percentage (60.3 percent) the last two seasons. They rank 24th in ninth-inning ERA (4.55) and ninth-inning WHIP (1.43) the last two seasons. Hand would give the club a steady closer capable of taking the drama out of the ninth inning.

Contract outlook

Hand is worth a multi-year contract. Assigning a dollar-figure to that deal isn’t easy after 29 teams passed on a chance to land such a quality reliever for just $10 million. Hand certainly seems worthy of an average annual value approaching that number, but who knows how this pandemic-affected market will shake out. Smart teams will stay on Hand throughout the winter and be ready to pounce on a potential bargain once the market becomes established.

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