No team bit on Brad Hand when Cleveland placed him on outright waivers. Any MLB club could have had the left-handed reliever for the $10M he was owed in the final year of a 3-year/$19.75M he’d signed with the San Diego Padres in 2018.
Cleveland, after acquiring Hand in mid-‘18, ended up declining the reliever’s $10M 2021 option, opting for a $1M buyout that made him a free agent in late October of 2020.
Hand, who finished the 60-game COVID campaign with a 2.05 ERA, 1.37 FIP, four walks (1.64 BB/9), and 29 Ks (11.86 K/9), holding opposing hitters to a .169/.226/.260 line, was available until he signed on with the Washington Nationals in late January 2021, agreeing to a new 1-year/$10.5M deal which includes a lot ($6.5M without interest paid out in 2022, 2023, and 2024) of deferred money according to a breakdown of the deal on Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
The market he confronted was slow-moving, Hand said after his deal with the Nationals was officially announced, but he was happy to sign on in D.C.
“Obviously the offseason was kind of slow to begin with,” Hand explained on a Zoom call with reporters on January 26th. “Over the past month it started heating up a little bit. Just a good group of guys, with the starting rotation that they have there in Washington, and then the guys that they’ve got down in the bullpen, I thought that would be a good fit for me to join those guys down there in the bullpen and be able to help out any way that I could.”
Joining a team with legitimate postseason aspirations was a big consideration for the 30-year-old, 10-year veteran, who has pitched in the playoffs just twice so far in his career (in ‘18 and ‘20).
“For sure, it’s big,” the southpaw said after signing.
“Obviously the moves that the Nationals made already this offseason, bringing in [Kyle] Schwarber and [Josh] Bell, two big moves there, and then with the starting rotation that they’ve got, I think we’ve got a good chance to go deep into the playoffs.”
“That was big,” Hand reiterated of his desire to play for a contender.
“Obviously this is going to be one of the tougher divisions in baseball, competition-wise, so we’re going to have to be ready to go and prepared for that, but I think I like our chances.”
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez, in his first Zoom call with reporters from West Palm Beach, FL this week said he was excited about the bullpen mix the club put together for 2021.
“We worked on getting some bullpen help. Adding Brad Hand was huge,” Martinez said.
“As you know we have [Tanner] Rainey, [Daniel] Hudson, [Will] Harris, [Wander] Suero, [Kyle] Finnegan, and some other guys that we like. [Luis] Avilán that we picked up that’s left-handed that we like.
“Sam Clay, that we picked up, he looked really good today throwing for the first time. I really liked his action on his ball. We have some guys that we can plug in if need be, but we’ll have to see what transpires this Spring.”
Throwing Hand into the mix, Martinez added, makes a big difference.
“I love the back end of our bullpen right now. It’s kind of nice. Like I said, you have Hand, Huddy, Harris, Rainey, Finnegan threw the ball well last year. Still have Suero.
“We stretched out our bullpen pretty good. So that’s kind of nice.”
GM Mike Rizzo said that Hand’s interest in the Nationals was a big part of the reason he ended up in D.C.
“I think it was — I often say to you guys it takes two to tango. I think Brad Hand wanted to be with the Nationals,” Rizzo explained. “The structure of his contract shows that he wanted to be here. If we didn’t structure it that way he would not be here, but you’re talking about one of the really good relief pitchers in the game. We thought that we had a hole in the left-handed side of our bullpen, especially the late-inning, left side of our bullpen, and I think Brad just gives Davey another great option to get important outs at the back end of games.
“He’s really consistent against left-handed and right-handed hitters,” Rizzo said of the lefty, who held left-hand hitters to a .125/.222/.125 line, and right-hand hitters to a .174/.227/.275 line in 2020.
“He’s done it at the highest level and he’s performed terrific. It was a good get by us and it was helped by that Brad wanting to be here.”