In an indication of what this offseason could look like, the Cleveland Indians placed elite closer Brad Hand on outright waivers Thursday, according to Zack Meisel of The Athletic.
The upside is potentially saving $1 million, the buyout of his $10 million club option.
This would have been a shocking move in any year other than 2020. MLB is on record stating that $2.8-3 billion was lost from the game this year from the impact of the pandemic. The expectation going into this free-agent period is that some or most teams will sit out, clutching their wallets because of the financial losses. Every organization has had to make difficult decisions and lay off employees, and the game needs fans back in stands to get back to operating close to the way it did pre-COVID.
The Indians, a team that does not spend, are letting go of Hand because of the cost. The decision on his $10 million club option (or $1M buyout) is due Sunday and the Indians would apparently rather trade him or let another team absorb his contract than pay either figure.
Hand is 30 years old and a free agent after 2021. He's a left-handed closer with an elite slider who led the majors in saves in 2020, going 16 for 16 with a 2.05 ERA, 29 strikeouts and four walks.
Since 2017, Hand has 103 saves, a 2.61 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 93 more strikeouts than innings pitched.
Over the last five seasons, lefties have hit .150 and struck out in 42% of their at-bats against Hand.
Yeah, duh, the Phillies should be interested. Hand immediately becomes the best or second-best available reliever next to free agent Liam Hendriks. What happens in the coming days around the league with Hand will tell us more about how teams are approaching this offseason, how aggressive they will be.
Hand is on waivers. The waiver order is the standings inverted. The Phillies are 13th, but again, if this cost-cutting move by the Indians is emblematic of what mid-market teams are thinking, Hand could go through the beginning of that list unclaimed.
The best-case scenario for the Indians is an interested team claims Hand and a trade is worked out so Cleveland gets a sliver of value. The worst-case scenario is saying goodbye to one of baseball's best lefty relievers for nothing but money. That's 2020.
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