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If presented with chance, Phillies would be wise to claim Brad Hand


Brad Hand was waived Thursday. (Erik Drost)

In July of 2018, Dennis Lin of The Athletic reported that the Philadelphia Phillies were among the teams interested in then-San Diego Padres’ reliever Brad Hand.

Ultimately, Hand was instead traded to the Cleveland Indians, where he continued to to demonstrate that he was one of the game’s best relievers. In 306 games since the start of the 2016 season, FanGraphs says that Hand has been the seventh-best reliever in the sport, posting a 2.70 ERA.

Now, the Phillies could be presented with another chance to acquire Hand.

Wednesday, Zack Meisel of The Athletic reported that the Indians placed Hand on outright waivers. Why? The team plans to decline his $10 million option for the 2021 season, but will have to pay him $1 million as a buyout. If another team claims Hand and takes on his $10 million salary, the Indians won’t have to pay a cent to him in 2021.

And another team should claim Hand. The three-time All-Star was filthy in 2020, posting a 2.05 ERA and 1.37 FIP in 23 games, converting on all 16 of his save opportunities.

The Indians not retaining Hand can only be viewed in one way – the organization being cheap. It’s one thing to not exercise a $10 million option on a player that has a down year. It’s another thing to altogether move on from one of the very best relievers in the sport because you don’t want to pay them what amounts to a bargain salary.

In any event, one team’s poor decision creates an opportunity for another franchise. The Phillies finished with the 13th-worst record in the 2020 season, so 12 other teams will get a shot to claim Hand before the Phillies. If one of those 12 teams claims Hand, the Phillies are out of luck. However, if the Indians are pinching pennies to the point that they already have Hand on their roster and don’t want to pay him $10 million, other teams may not given that baseball didn’t meet its expected revenue goals in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Of course, managing partner John Middleton suggested that the Phillies have reservations about their ability to spend this offseason as well.

“I can’t tell you. Can you tell me what the governor [of Pennsylvania] and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans? Because if you do, you know something that I don’t,” Middleton said.

Still, the Phillies had one of the worst bullpens in MLB history in 2020. If they want to make the postseason for the first time in a decade in 2021, they need to drastically improve their bullpen. Some of that may come internally – perhaps Héctor Neris will bounce back and Connor Brogdon will emerge as a legitimate back-end-of-the-bullpen option. But there do need to be some external additions, and whether it’s via trade or free agency, the Phillies are unlikely to find a better value than being able to acquire one of the best relievers in the sport for one year and $10 million.

It’s unclear what taking on Hand’s $10 million for 2021 would mean for the Phillies’ ability to retain J.T. Realmuto and/or Didi Gregorius. It’s perhaps not realistic to think that both will return to Philadelphia, though that’s just the opinion from here. The Phillies have until 5 p.m. ET on Sunday to decide whether they will extend a qualifying offer to both. Realmuto will for sure get one, while Gregorius is less certain to be issued a one-year/$18.9 million deal.

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