The Toronto Blue Jays were dealt a big blow to the bullpen today when Joe Smith hit the disabled list. While he likely will be back in a week or two, they could still use help from the left side of the bullpen. That is where Brad Hand of the San Diego Padres comes to mind. Based on the reported asking price, I could see the Blue Jays potentially getting involved.
There are many people probably wondering who Brad Hand is. Let me give a brief background. Hand was with the Miami Marlins organization since 2008 as a starting pitcher. Hand was up and down in between the majors and minors from his major league debut in 2011 to 2014. From 2014 to 2015 with the Marlins, Hand pitched out of the bullpen but also started some games as well. After being let go by the Marlins, the Padres picked him up off of waivers and inserted into the bullpen full time. Hand never looked back and has turned into a bullpen stud.
In 2016, Brad Hand threw 89.1 innings out of the bullpen going 4-4 with a 11.18 K/9, 46.7 GB%, 2.92 ERA, and 3.07 FIP. Through 38.0 innings in 2017, he is 1-4 with a K/9 of 11.37, 50.0 GB%, 2.84 ERA and 3.24 FIP. Interestingly enough, Hand has experienced a slight tick in velocity with a 92.8 average fastball velocity, but it’s his new pitch mix out of the bullpen that has helped him take off. Hand used to throw his fastball around 68.0% of the time as a starter. That dipped to 61.2% in 2016 and is now 48.5% in 2017. That has led to an increase in his off-speed stuff.
In 2016, he threw his slider 30.3% and is now at 45.2%. He mixes in his curveball a bit with 7.5% in 2016 and 6.3% in 2017. He has all but abandoned his changeup since moving into the bullpen. The rise in the off-speed stuff with his hard fastball to set it up has correlated in a big jump in swinging strikes. 2016 had a swinging strike percentage of 12.2% and an astonishing 13.8% in 2017. It is clear the move to the bullpen has revitalized Hand’s career and he has turned into a stud in the bullpen.
When you look at the splits for the left hander, it’s not only lefties that Hand has shown he can get out. Right handers have a slashline of .211/.275/.275, while lefties are at .205/.327/.409. He can handle both sides of the plate effectively, so he can be used as much more than just a lefty specialist. Despite the reverse splits of Aaron Loup in 2017, Loup can be the LOOGY.
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Why would the Blue Jays have interest? The first is that they don’t have a truly reliable lefty out of the bullpen. While Loup has been much better than the past 2 seasons, he has his issues with walks. Free agent signing J.P. Howell has not worked out as he has bounced between low leverage situations out of the bullpen and the disabled list. The Blue Jays could use a dominate lefty out of the bullpen, as we saw what the value of a dominate lefty could do in the bullpen the past two post-seasons.
The second is the asking price. It was reported today by Ken Rosenthal that the Padres would be looking for a return similar to what the Milwaukee Brewers got a season ago for Will Smith. The San Francisco Giants sent first round pick Phil Bickford and catcher Andrew Susac to Milwaukee for Smith.
Toronto has quite a few talented arms in the lower minor leagues that could be a fair comparison to that of Phil Bickford whether it be Justin Maese, T.J. Zeuch, or others. In terms of catchers, the Blue Jays have the likes of Reese McGuire, Max Pentecost, or Danny Jansen. Now, it may not be the exact type of package as it’s impossible to speculate, but if it’s a similar type of package, I do feel the Blue Jays would feel comfortable in giving up two prospects to acquire Brad Hand.
If the Blue Jays decide to add to the team at the trade deadline, the bullpen would likely be a top priority to 100% solidify it. Hand will likely be extremely sought after and I do think the Blue Jays would be one of those teams interested, especially considering the lack of a dominate left hander out of the bullpen.