The Indians have an apparent need for bullpen help as we’re within two weeks of the trade deadline.
With Andrew Miller still on the disabled list, the bullpen has been dragging throughout the first half of the season with an ERA of 5.28 which ranks 14th in the American League, the team needs to add at least one arm by the deadline to improve their chances heading into the postseason.
The trade rumors are starting to heat up linking Cleveland to some of the top relievers on the trade market: San Diego’s Brad Hand
Hand is being pursued by many teams as he’s presumed to be the top reliever on the market and with multiple years of control, it would be a perfect fit with Cleveland as both Cody Allen and Andrew Miller will be free agents this coming offseason.
The 28-year-old left hander is in his third season with the Padres after being claimed off waivers from the Miami Marlins. Hand has transformed into one of the best closers in baseball earning him back to back All-Star appearances despite playing on a below average team like the Padres.
This season he is 2-4 with a 3.05 ERA and 24 saves. He’s also struck out 65 batters in 44.1 innings pitched (13.2 strikeouts per 9 innings). Opposing hitters are batting .202 against Hand (.229 against right handed hitters, .148 against left handed hitters).
The price like Crasnick mentioned should be high for Hand and with multiple teams interested, it could be a big-time bidding war for his services.
The Andrew Miller trade that the Indians made two years could be a perfect example of what the Padres could want in return for Hand. The Indians sent two top five prospects in Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield to the Yankees for Miller at the deadline two years ago.
The Indians top five prospects currently are Francisco Mejia, Triston McKenzie, Bobby Bradley, Nolan Jones and Shane Bieber.
Bieber (23 years old) is currently on the Indians roster and has been pitching very well with a 5-1 record, 42 strikeouts to 8 walks and a 3.53 ERA in seven starts (43.1 innings pitched).
Mejia (22 years old) is hitting .279 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs in 79 games (336 plate appearances) for Triple-A Columbus. He’s appeared in one game for the Indians last Saturday against the Yankees recording two walks. The organization is debating whether or not he’ll be a catcher or an outfielder in the majors.
McKenzie (20 years old) has made eight starts for Double-A Akron with a 4-2 record with a 2.86 ERA, 39 strikeouts to 12 walks and a 0.932 WHIP in 44 innings pitched.
Bradley (22 years old) is currently in Double-A Akron where he’s appeared in 84 games (365 plate appearances and is hitting .207 with 16 doubles, 18 home runs and 53 runs batted in. Bradley is also slugging .443 and has an OPS of .733.
Jones (20 years old) is currently in Single-A Lake County where he’s appeared in 77 games (337 plate appearances) and is hitting .279 with 11 doubles, 12 home runs and 41 runs batted in. Jones is also slugging .445 and an OPS of .834.
I think out of those prospects, Bradley and Jones would be the most expendable on the list.
Bieber is performing at a high level on the major league roster and I would think Francona will not let the organization trade him away.
Mejia is getting more playing time in the outfield which makes me believe they have a plan to have him full-time in the outfield as early as next season with the impending free agency of Michael Brantley looming.
McKenzie has a ton of upside as a starting pitcher and he’s only 20 years old with still room to grow. Some baseball prospect websites have projected his major league debut to be as early as 2019 and with Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber inching towards their mid-30s, the Indians should consider hanging on to McKenzie to pair up potentially with Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Trevor Bauer for the future.
The Indians championship window is closing and if Brad Hand can be the missing link to breaking the team’s 69 year drought of a world championship, the front office should strongly consider making a strong bid for his services.
Adding Hand alongside Allen and hopefully a healthy Andrew Miller could give the Indians a strong 1-2-3 punch in the bullpen and ease the load on the starting pitching that has had to carry the load throughout the first half of the season.