Kenny Van Doren
Brad Hand is the last big name closer on the market, and while he has waited out to sign, it has increased his chances of making big money. The Los Angeles Dodgers signed relief pitcher Blake Treinen to a two year, $17.5 million contract that blew open the market this offseason. Treinen wasn’t projected to make as much as he did, but as the first big relief pitcher to sign, his contract will lead to other pitchers asking for the same amount of money.
Liam Hendriks, who was arguably the best closer in baseball in 2020, signed a huge deal with the Chicago White Sox in the last few weeks. His deal ended up being three year, $54 million with a team option for a fourth year. Hendriks was the righty flamethrower for the Oakland A’s the last few years, but just like Hand, he was looking to sign with the team that had the most zeros on the check.
Hand is a lefty with a very orthodox approach to the plate. In 22 innings pitched in 2020, the lefty fanned 29 batters and posted a 2.05 ERA. He isn’t the strikeout machine like Hendriks, but his future contract could be in a smaller ballpark. In 2020, Hand led MLB in saves (16) and led the AL in games finished (21).
Hand was waived early in the off season for $10 million, with no claimers, which hinted to a depleted market. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic broke the news that Hand was in terms with the New York Mets, but the reported deal fell through. Another team interested has been the Houston Astros. While the Mets are looking for a new GM, this could be the best time for Houston to swoop up the 3x all-star. General Manager James Click of the Astros has shown he is ready to spend money while bringing back Michael Brantley and Jason Castro.
My projection: the Houston Astros – 2 years/$18 million
Brad Hand is the last top end closer still on the market and there is still no shortage of teams in need of relief help. There are other relievers on the market with closing experience, such as Alex Colome and Trevor Rosenthal, but neither are nearly on the level that Hand is.
The Astros do make a lot of sense as their bullpen from a year ago was a very clear weakness with injuries and opt outs coming together to make a bullpen consisting of young rookies and fringe MLB arms. However, the Astros have already signed two relievers in Ryne Stanek and Pedro Baez to guaranteed major league deals. Add in the fact that they re-signed Michael Brantley, and are still in the market for a starting centerfielder, and it looks more likely that the Astros will go a tier lower for another reliever, rather than spending top dollar on a closer of Hand’s caliber.
A couple other AL contenders make sense for Hand, however. The Oakland A’s are a notoriously cheap spender, though they’re a team that’s still looking to compete after three consecutive playoff appearances. After losing dominant closer Liam Hendriks, the A’s suddenly have a hole in the 9th inning spot, and with Marcus Semien coming off the books as well, the A’s could look to use their money on a closer who fits the profile of a pitcher they would adore. However, as stated earlier, the A’s are very stiff when it comes to spending and that especially holds true when talking about relievers, as they let both Blake Treinen and Hendriks walk in back to back years. Hand fits well with the A’s, but they may be unwilling to pay him.
Another AL team that makes sense is Minnesota. The Twins were the AL Central champions last year and are undoubtedly set offensively. The priority for the Twins should be to add arms to both the bullpen and the rotation. The Twins, despite their potent offense and regular season success, were bounced in the first round of the playoffs, with their bullpen being a major reason for their collapse against the Astros. Their closer last year was 37 year old Sergio Romo, who is now a free agent. They also lost Trevor May to the Mets in free agency as well. The Twins need bullpen help in the worst way possible, and unlike the A’s, are a bit more willing to spend. It makes sense for both sides to bring the Minneapolis native to his hometown team to help put them over the top.
My projection: Minnesota Twins – 2 years/$16.5 million
Edited by Tyler Kading