This season, the Blue Jays front office made a few moves to try and improve the bullpen as they headed into the latter half of the season. They first acquired RHP Adam Cimber from the Miami Marlins in late June and right-hander Trevor Richards from the Milwaukee Brewers a week later. At the deadline, the Jays also went out and acquired veteran Joakim Soria from the Arizona Diamondbacks to finish out the bullpen.
The biggest relief pitcher the club added this past season when it comes to experience and pedigree was southpaw Brad Hand from the Washington Nationals. The price was steep in that it required Jays top 30 catching prospect Riley Adams to get the deal done but considering Hand had experience closing games and pitching in high-pressure situations, as well as the Blue Jays having a plethora of talent at the catching position, the deal made sense from multiple angles.
With the Blue Jays, Hand struggled to find a rhythm in the bullpen, pitching to a 7.27 ERA through 11 appearances with seven earned runs through 8.2 innings pitched. He also authored a 1.846 WHIP during that time and was on the hook for two losses, one of them being during his second outing at home when he surrendered a home run in extra innings to Cleveland when the Blue Jays returned home.
Hand would be designated for assignment on August 31st and would be picked up by the New York Mets a few days later, finishing the season with the Mets organization. He would find his groove returning to the NL, finishing the season with a 2.70 ERA through 16 outings and four earned runs in 13.1 innings with 14 strikeouts. He also dropped his WHIP down to 1.275 and raised his K/9 from 5.2 with the Jays to 9.5 with New York.
The Blue Jays acquired LHP Brad Hand at the trade deadline, and while the trade didn’t work out, one wonders what could have been if he pitched well.
This begs the question, what would have happened to the Blue Jays if Brad Hand had pitched as he did with the Mets?
Having another strong lefty option would have obviously benefitted the club but after he was DFA’d, the Blue Jays only lost nine games in the month of September. Of the nine losses, only two of them were attributed to relievers: Sep/10 against the Orioles (Merryweather) and Sep/22 against the Rays credited to Ross Stripling, who was acting like a starter after Merryweather was used as the opener.
Could Hand have made a difference in some of those games? Sure, there is the possibility.
However, all nine losses in September were more of a result because the Blue Jays couldn’t score any runs, failing to produce more than three runs in any of those games.
Having a veteran player like Hand in the bullpen would have been great if he sported numbers as he did with the Mets or like he did with Cleveland back in 2018 but he just did not pitch well with the Blue Jays. The trade itself wasn’t bad on paper and seemed fair at the time but considering how poorly the southpaw pitched, it will easily end up being the worst deal of the season, one that the front office should have maybe seen coming considering he was starting to struggle with the Nats prior to joining the Jays but the risk was worth it at the time.
I kind of wish we still had Riley Adams at this point but that’s the risk you take when the club is trying to reach the playoffs. One trade to chalk up on the regret list moving forward.