Red Sox potential trade target: Padres reliever Brad Hand

SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 31: Brad Hand
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 31: Brad Hand /

The Red Sox have made it clear that they want a deeper bullpen and Brad Hand could be a perfect fit.

It’s no surprise that the Red Sox plan on being buyers at the deadline. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made it quite clear that the club is looking to add a player capable of providing major league wins now, though that might not be a big name player when all is said and done.

Over the past week, trade rumors have started to fly around the Red Sox. We had reports indicating interest in Sonny Gray among Red Sox scouts, then quotes from Dombrowski shutting down those rumors just 24 hours later. There’s also the ongoing narrative that the club will inevitably acquire a third baseman. Lost in the big name speculation, though, is the team’s desire to add depth to their bullpen.

One such candidate that is sure to find himself on a new roster once the July 31, non-waiver deadline passes is Brad Hand.

For those unfamiliar with the Padres’ setup man, Hand is a starter turned reliever that bounced between the minors and majors from 2011-2015 with the Miami Marlins before being claimed off waivers by San Diego. Once transitioning to the bullpen full time as a member of the Padres, he’s never looked back.

In 2016, he threw 89.1 innings over a league-high 82 games posting a 2.92 ERA with a 1.108 WHIP, 111 strikeouts, and 3.07 FIP. Through 41.2 innings this season, he owns a 2.59 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 3.09 FIP, and a 30.5% strikeout rate. For a season and a half now, he’s been nothing but dominant pitching in late innings for the Padres.

More from BoSox Injection

While he might not be a big name as far as relievers go – blame that on playing San Diego – he’s sure to draw a lot of attention from Major League executives as the trade deadline approaches, and the Padres know it.

According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, San Diego is looking for a “Chapman-type return.”

Before we get into what a “Chapman-type return” looks like, let’s make one thing clear. Brad Hand is not Aroldis Chapman. He’s not going to draw a prospect of Gleyber Torres‘ quality in return, or even the number of prospects the Chicago Cubs sent to New York to acquire Chapman.

However, we can’t blame Padres GM A.J. Preller for shooting high. The relief market is thin in depth and talent, which at this early stage means exorbitantly high prices. There’s also the risk that Hand falters under last season’s heavy workload and his already high pace for 2017. Until we get a solid gauge on the price of relievers, what’s the risk in listing him at a ridiculous cost?

From the Red Sox’ perspective, Hand would be a perfect fit for a team that is seeking bullpen depth. His left-handedness is something the team lacks in a stable late-inning option, and his ability to work multiple innings or consecutive days makes him a valuable asset.

It’s really too early to tell how much Hand would cost as a trade target, though his two years of team control and unique assets won’t be cheap. If Passan’s speculation is off, perhaps Ken Rosenthal has a more accurate gauge on what the Padres are looking for.

On June 19, he reported that San Diego could look for a return similar to what the Milwaukee Brewers received for Will Smith a season ago. The San Francisco Giants sent right-handed pitcher Phil Bickford, a first-round pick just one year into his professional career, and catching prospect Andrew Susac to the Brewers. While the Padres may seek a slightly different structure for Hand, it’s safe to assume that Preller and his staff would be content with a near-MLB-ready prospect and another young, but highly-touted prospect.

More from Red Sox News

The Red Sox farm system is as thin as it’s been this decade, but that doesn’t mean the shelves are barren. Rafael Devers and Jayson Groome aren’t being moved for a reliever, but what about Blake Swihart and a young pitcher? Swihart’s struggled throughout his season in Triple-A and is blocked by Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon on the major league roster. However, he still carries the reputation of being one of the most athletic catchers in baseball and is a former top prospect that could probably make the jump up to the majors by season’s end.

Adding to Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel at the back of the bullpen would give the club the triple threat option they’ve sought after. Tyler Thornburg was supposed to be that missing piece this year, but he’ll be out until 2018 after undergoing thoracic surgery on his throwing shoulder. There’s also the mid-season return of Carson Smith which should come sooner rather than later, though it’s uncertain how effective he’ll be after missing a season and a half to Tommy John Surgery.

Next: Red Sox duo of Leon and Vazquez is catching on

If the Red Sox were to make a move for Hand, or any other reliever of his caliber, they would set themselves up to have arguably the most dominant bullpen in baseball. Coupled with a starting lineup that is far more talented than the numbers suggest and a rotation anchored by Chris Sale, it would be hard to argue against their chances of making a deep run in the postseason. With a third shut down arm in the ‘pen, the Red Sox would have a similar trio to the 2014 Royals (Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, Greg Holland) or the 2016 Yankees (Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman).