It's not Craig Kimbrel, but one of the top relievers on the trade market has been dealt. The Nationals have traded left-handed closer Brad Hand to the Toronto Blue Jays for 25-year-old catching prospect Riley Adams, who has put up big offensive numbers in the minors.
The Washington Post first reported the trade.
The Nats have been in town for a four-game series against the Phillies. Hand appeared in each of the first two games, blowing a save in the series opener on Andrew McCutchen's walk-off homer, then retiring the middle of the Phillies' order for a save the next night.
He heads to Toronto, a team with the best lineup in baseball that needed late-inning bullpen help and experience. Hand, who is on a one-year contract worth $10.5 million, has a 2.77 ERA with 12 strikeouts per nine innings and 124 saves since 2017. This season, however, has been his least productive over that span by far, particularly in the bat-missing department.
The Nationals, at 47-54, are in sell mode. They're without Stephen Strasburg (season-ending neck surgery), Kyle Schwarber (hamstring), Trea Turner (COVID-19) and have gotten little from Patrick Corbin this season. They've chosen to pack it in and may trade Max Scherzer by Friday's 4 p.m. deadline. There had also been news of a possible Turner trade prior to his being placed on the COVID IL this week.
Scherzer, who has two months left on the seven-year, $210 million contract that worked out brilliantly for Washington, started Game 1 of Thursday's doubleheader between the Phillies and Nationals opposite Zack Wheeler.
The Phillies have seven games left against the Nationals after this series. The teams meet for four in D.C. early next week and again at the end of August. Every big piece the Nats deal away obviously increases the Phils' chances in those games.
Hand was one of the top relievers on the trade market after Kimbrel, who is a target of the Phillies and most teams hunting for bullpen help. The Astros were and still could be a suitor for Kimbrel, but they may be out of the running after trading for Mariners closer Kendall Graveman and Marlins closer Yimi Garcia.
The Phillies also liked Kimbrel’s bullpen mate Ryan Tepera, who is having a strong season as a setup man and was reportedly traded to the White Sox Thursday.
The tiers below Kimbrel include relievers like Ian Kennedy of the Rangers, Daniel Bard of the Rockies, Joakim Soria of the Diamondbacks and Hansel Robles of the Twins.
Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez is better than the relievers in that group and also comes with more club control, so he'd be more expensive.
In terms of talent, stuff and experience, Angels closer Raisel Iglesias might be the next-best option on the market after Kimbrel. He's striking out more hitters than ever (71 in 47 innings) and has 21 saves with a 3.23 ERA. He is a free agent after the season.