Dodgers trade deadline targets: LHP Brad Hand

(Via)

Here’s part six of our trade deadline target series. This time we’re staying in the National League West and looking south toward San Diego and Brad Hand.

Previous entries:

Despite being a guy who was designated for assignment less than 16 months ago, he is now one of the most valuable trade chips on the market, and the Padres will be sure to cash in on it.

Diehard Cub fan Mike Petriello wrote about Hand for MLB.com just a couple days ago.

“… Hand has increased his whiff rate this year (from 30.5 to 32.1) and decreased his walk rate, from 9.9 percent to 6.8. He’s dropped his ERA from 2.92 to 2.25; he’s dropped his hard-hit rate from 38 percent to 26. The most impressive number on that leaderboard might just be “innings pitched,” where he’s second only to Chris Devenski; it’s one thing to pitch like he has, and another to have done it over nearly twice as many innings as, say, Wade Davis. In a world where Miller-esque multi-inning relievers have gained new value, Hand fits in perfectly.”

Hand threw 89 1/3 innings in 82 appearances last season and pitched to a 3.07 FIP. Not bad, especially for that many innings. He was better against lefites (.124/.221/.200), but he was also really good against righties (.233/.310/.379). You kind of have to be to amass that many innings as a reliever these days.

Mike sees a lot of Andrew Miller in Hand.

“So know that you know Hand has been really good as a reliever, you’re probably wondering why, and the Miller comparisons aren’t going to stop here. When Miller moved to the bullpen, he was able to make two big changes. He dropped his ineffective sinker and changeup to focus entirely on four-seamers and sliders, and his velocity increased in shorter stints. Hand’s velocity actually didn’t increase, surprisingly, but he also dropped his weakest pitches, a curve and a changeup, to also focus on just fastballs and sliders. In fact, Hand throws so many sliders that if you look at all the lefties who have thrown at least 500 pitches this year, you’ll see our two comparison points in the top three names on the list.”

Highest slider percentage by lefties in 2017 (minimum 500 total pitches)
58.9 percent — Miller, Indians
48.5 percent — Dan Jennings, White Sox
45.2 percent — Hand, Padres
40.7 percent — Andrew Chafin, D-backs
40.3 percent — Mike Dunn, Rockies”

Hand throws a ton of sliders, but it works for him. FanGraphs rates it as 6.7 runs above average, 6th-best among relievers in baseball and second among lefties behind — you guessed it — Mr. Miller (11.7, lol JFC).

A deeper dive into his slider shows he’s actually getting fewer swinging strikes on it than he did last season.

He has made up for it a bit by getting more swinging strikes with his 4-seam fastball. But we’re splitting hairs here — a 20-plus whiff rate (20.4, in this case) on a single pitch is elite. Miller’s whiff rate on his slider is 22.6 percent, so Hand’s isn’t far behind.

Speaking of his fastball, it has elite spin to it, and we all know the Dodgers’ front office covets high-spin pitches.

“Yet while Hand’s velocity didn’t increase with the shift to the bullpen, it’s interesting to note that his four-seam spin rate did, which is somewhat unusual. High spin rate on fastballs, which allow the ball to defy gravity and offer the “rising fastball” effect, can be positively correlated to an increase in swinging strikes. The Major League average four-seam spin rate this year is 2,259 rpm, while Hand’s spin has jumped from 2,367 rpm (2015) to 2,483 rpm (’16) to 2,533 rpm (’17).”

So, that’s something to keep in mind here.

Grant Dayton is due back soon-ish, Luis Avilan is fine but probably shouldn’t be the first lefty out of the bullpen and it’s wise to not expect much out of Adam Liberatore the rest of this season. Getting a guy like Hand would go a long way to strengthening an already strong bullpen.

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The last time the Dodgers and Padres did business together, it wasn’t pretty. It was the Matt Kemp for Yasmani Grandal deal. It wasn’t pretty because of Kemp’s arthritic hips and it took a long time to complete, as you’ll remember. That was 2 1/2 years ago, so here’s hoping there’s no hang-ups between Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Co., and Padres’ general manager A.J. Preller.

Cost

The Padres have already, reportedly, asked for Alex Verdugo in return and are said to be asking for “top, top prospects,” for Hand’s services. They’re well within their right to do so, but they won’t get an Aroldis Chapman-esque return, no matter how desperate a team might be. Suffice it to say, they won’t be getting Verdugo (or even Yadier Alvarez) for Hand, but that doesn’t mean the quality of prospect heading down I-5 (yes, I say I-5 because I live in Northern California) won’t be good.

I’ll propose two different packages here.

Hand is under team control through the 2019 season, so he’ll be a bit more costly than a guy like Justin Wilson, but not as costly as Zach Britton.

Package 1

To San Diego: Yusniel Diaz, Dustin May, Gavin Lux, Caleb Ferguson
To Los Angeles: Hand

The big prize for San Diego here is Diaz, who could be their left fielder of the future (because Manuel Margot is not getting moved off center field). Padres’ pro scouting director Logan White would also land one of his final draft picks while with the Dodgers in Ferguson (38th-rounder, 2014), who is pitching well in the California League after a bit of a rough start. Lux is a ways off, but he could be the Padres’ shortstop of the future. May is a big, projectable arm that would intrigue the Friars. White loves his projectable right-handers, and May fits that bill.

Package 2

To San Diego: Brock Stewart, Jordan Sheffield, Imani AbdullahJacob Rhame
To Los Angeles: Hand

Abdullah is a San Diego native, so it’d be a bit of a homecoming for him, while Rhame is a throw-in and could take Hand’s spot in the bullpen (and also opens up a 40-man roster spot for Hand’s arrival). Sheffield is a high-upside arm the Padres covet, but Stewart is the big key in this package. He was a White draftee and might be the Padres’ No. 3 starter at this very moment. It would hurt to lose Stewart, but getting an elite reliever in return softens the blow a bit.

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Hand promises to be a hot commodity before the non-waiver trade deadline passes, and I’d be utterly shocked if he weren’t moved. The Dodgers seem like a perfect fit for him, it just depends if the Padres want to play ball with them or not.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin’ Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.