Brad Hand has been placed on outright waivers by the Cleveland Indians with the intention of declining his $10 million team option, according to Zack Meisel of The Athletic. If Hand were to clear waivers, he would become a free agent.
Hand, 30, was really good in the 2020 season. He tallied 29 strikeouts while only walking four batters, allowing 5 earned runs in 22 innings pitched. He struck out 33.7% of the batters he faced on the way to a 2.05 ERA.
So, lack of production can not be the reason for letting Hand go. There must be some other reasons for the Indians to make this move.
The news broke when Jeff Phelps and I were on the air today (by the way, listen to Baskin and Phelps Monday-Friday from 10:00am-2:00pm on 92.3 The Fan. My mom says it’s not bad) and Phelps tossed me his three theories of why the Indians made the move. If you want to hear them live, download the all new Radio.com app and rewind to 1:20pm.
Theory 1: Here are the Indians going cheap.
There is a portion of the fan base screaming this on their Twitter pages and our airways, and there is some validity to this. The front office has not shied away from telling anyone who would listen, times were getting tough and the pocketbook was filled with more moths than multiple million dollar checks.
There is some validity to this theory. The payroll the last three years has gone from 15th highest in 2018 ($143 million) to 22nd in 2019 ($107 million) to 24th in 2020 ($38 million) according to Spotrac.
So, as much as we want a better reason than owners crying poor, this may be one of the biggest factors. We all know a season with no fans in the stands hurts the revenue, but to what extent is a mystery because no owner will open their books for the fanbase to see.
Theory 2: Hand’s production does not match the price tag
It is a play off the previous theory and also can not be dismissed. Hand was really good in 2020, but his fastball velocity is heading in the wrong direction. Hand’s average fastball velocity was 92.7 miles per hour in 2019. In 2020, his fastball velocity fell to 91.4 MPH. It may seem like a gradual decline, but for every MPH a pitcher loses, the accuracy needs to improve. In 2019, Hand’s fastball gave up a .270 average and a .440 slugging percentage, not ideal for the dude you want slamming the door in the ninth.
2020 was a different story though as the velocity of the fastball dipped, but opponents only hit .152/273 (BA/SLG). I want to believe 2020 Brad Hand is the real Brad Hand, but the 60 game sample size tells me 2019 is probably closer to reality.
Hand at $10 million was about to be paid like he was the ninth best reliever in baseball and if you believe the 2019 numbers and the declining velocity, he is not the ninth best reliever in MLB.
I buy this as well and hope with everything in me it leads to a Lindor contract extension with the savings.
Theory 3: The closer of the future is ready
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the lion share of the reason Hand will not be on this ball club in 2021.
They have been grooming James Karinchak for this role for the last two years. When you can throw 100 MPH and have a dominant 12-6 curve to go with it, you will make hitters look silly quite often. He allowed 1 barrel all season and struck out 48.6 percent of hitters. The 14.7 walk percentage is concerning, but his velocity and movement is dominant closer material.
The Indians have Emmanual Clase in the pipeline as well who can also throw a 100 MPH cutter, but he is a bit of a question after missing 2020 with a PED suspension.
When you can pay Karinchek and Clase combined about one tenth of what you would pay Hand, you have the reason.
So all these theories Jeff tossed me today made sense as to why the Indians decided to move on from Hand. Let’s all hope Karenchek is ready to take over and the $10 million is reinvested in an outfielder or a Francisco Lindor extension. I doubt the Lindor extension is the end goal, but a man can hope, can't he?