Lend Me a Hand
In a shrewd move that went somewhat under the radar on Saturday, the Padres signed closer Brad Hand to a three-year, $19.75 million contract extension. The deal also includes a $10 million option for the 2020 season.
The deal buys out Hand’s final two seasons of arbitration and at least his first year of free agency.
The 27-year-old southpaw has been one of the top late-inning relievers in all of baseball over the past two seasons, compiling a 2.56 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 215/56 K/BB ratio over 168 ⅔ innings spanning 154 appearances.
Hand assumed the closer’s role with the Padres in late July after Brandon Maurer was dealt to the Royals, and he continued to excel even with the added pressure of the ninth inning.
From July 23 onward, he posted a 2.15 ERA and .167 batting average against while successfully converting 19 of his 21 save chances.
From a pure baseball perspective, it’s a terrific move for the Padres. They lock up one of the best left-handed bullpen arms in the league at an extremely affordable rate. Even if they decide in a year or two that they aren’t ready to compete for a playoff spot, Hand could easily be flipped for an attractive package of prospects.
From a fantasy perspective, this is a player that I feel is being a bit undervalued in early drafts. He has been going off the board around pick 120, which puts him at the end of round 8 in 15-team formats. That makes him the 13th closer off the board on average.
Given his extreme security in the ninth-inning role in San Diego and his impressive performance over the past two seasons, I think Hand should be considered a top-10 closer option heading into 2018. I’d much prefer landing Hand in the eighth round as opposed to paying a premium to secure Ken Giles or Wade Davis nearly two rounds earlier.
Got an Eye on Yu
John Harper of the New York Daily News reported Saturday that the Yankees’ interest in free agent right-hander Yu Darvish is “very real”.
The Yankees were in the mix to acquire Gerrit Cole from the Pirates before he was ultimately traded to the Astros on Saturday. With Cole off the board, Darvish seems to clearly be the top choice of the Yankees’ brass.
General manager Brian Cashman indicated on Thursday during an interview with WFAN that the club was pursuing Darvish. Cashman believes that since the free agent market has been slow to develop this offseason, there’s a very real chance that the Yankees could land Darvish at a “reasonable” price.
There have been reports that Darvish and his representatives are seeking a seven-year pact in the neighborhood of $160 million, but it’s hard to envision him landing that type of deal anywhere, not with clubs leery of handing out long-term deals this winter. If the price falls to the five-year, $90 million range, the Bombers are most definitely in play.
The prevailing wisdom around the league seems to be that the Yankees could have put together a much better package for Cole than the Astros’ ultimately did. Reading between the lines, the assumption there is that the Yankees’ had a fallback option that they preferred, rather than dealing away Clint Frazier to acquire Cole.
We’ll find out soon enough if that plan was to bring Darvish to New York all along.
Even at a reduced price though, signing Darvish would put the Yankees over the luxury tax threshold, something Cashman has indicated they will not do. That means they would need to shed significant salary elsewhere to make it work. The most logical candidate there would be to trade Jacoby Ellsbury, who is still owed over $60 million over the next three seasons.
Ellsbury owns a full no-trade clause though, so he would have to approve any deal the Yankees attempt to make. The Yankees would also have to eat a large portion of his contract in order to find a club willing to take him. If they are unable to move Ellsbury, they would have to explore shedding the contracts of Brett Gardner and/or David Robertson, two players that they seemingly do not wish to part with.
Quick Hits: The Brewers inked Ji-Man Choi to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Brad Peacock is expected to function out of the Astros’ bullpen to begin the 2018 campaign, as the Gerrit Cole acquisition bumped him from the starting rotation… According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Cardinals’ trade discussions with the Rays have centered around Chris Archer, not Alex Colome… Goold also noted that the Cardinals’ interest in free agent closer Greg Holland has been mild at best, and the club seems content heading into the season with Luke Gregerson in the ninth-inning role… Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports that the Pirates are more receptive to the idea of dealing Andrew McCutchen now that Gerrit Cole has been moved… Luke Voit has been taking fly balls in the outfield in an effort to increase his versatility and his chances of cracking the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster… According to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Twins plan to enter the season with Fernando Rodney installed as their closer, even after Saturday’s signing of Addison Reed... The Pirates designated Shane Carle and Engelb Vielma for assignment...