Similar to the 2022 Blue Jays squad, the 2021 roster needed some additional bullpen support heading into the second half of the season. Ross Atkins and co. had already traded for Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards earlier in the month but were needing a few more established arms in the bullpen and the rotation to help the Jays try and reach the postseason.
On July 29th, 2021, the Jays’ front office dipped into their catching depth and traded Riley Adams to the Washington Nationals in exchange for veteran reliever Brad Hand, who was riding out a one-year $10.5 million contract he signed during the offseason prior. The Nationals closer at the time, Hand is a three-time All-Star dating back to his days with San Diego Padres and Cleveland Guardians and was no stranger to high-pressure situations, earning 21 saves with the Nats that season with 109 already on his resume heading into the 2021 campaign.
While Hand was struggling at the time of the trade, mustering a 7.88 ERA through eight games in July, the Blue Jays were hoping a change of scenery and his veteran experience would help the relief corps to finish out the year. That ultimately did not happen, as the southpaw struggled to find any rhythm with his new team, earning a 7.27 ERA through 8.2 innings while pitching to a 1.846 WHIP in 11 relief appearances. He made headlines for the wrong reasons during his tenure, highlighted by the August 13th game against the Seattle Mariners where he walked in the winning run in the ninth inning, the only batter he faced in the game. The Jays would alter DFA him on August 31st and he finished out the year with the New York Mets.
On this day back in 2021, the Blue Jays acquired reliever Brad Hand from the Nationals, who pitched to less than stellar results with his new club before being DFA’d in late August.
Now with the Philadelphia Phillies, Hand has rebounded nicely in the NL East, sporting a 2.05 ERA through 39 relief appearances while racking up 10 holds, four saves, and a 7.9 K/9 while limiting opponents to a .194 batting average.
The Blue Jays gave up prospect Riley Adams in return, with the catcher finishing out the season on the Nationals roster and authoring a .268/.422/.465 slash line through 35 games. The righty-batter earned a spot on the Nationals Opening Day roster this season working in a backup catcher role but he struggled to start the year, earning a .605 OPS while hitting just below the Mendoza line with three home runs, five RBI, and 26 strikeouts in 78 at-bats heading into July. The Nationals would option him back to AAA on July 1st and he is currently still in Rochester, seeing limited game action (just nine games this month) and hitting to a .278 average with one home run.
While the trade did not work out for the Blue Jays or Brad Hand, you can’t fault the front office for trying to improve the bullpen with some veteran experience, although they may have seen the writing on the wall given his struggles prior to being dealt.
Let’s hope the 2022 trade deadline acquisitions (as there should hopefully be an additional arm or two in the Jays bullpen by next week) fair better than the Brad Hand experiment in Toronto.