Long live the Hand puns.
Reports from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports broke news today of a three-year contract extension for San Diego Padres reliever Brad Hand.
The deal will keep the left-hander in San Diego through the 2020 season with a club option for 2021, and is reportedly worth $19.75 million in guaranteed money.
The extension offers a degree of stability to Hand’s situation with the Friars, as the southpaw has been heavily involved in trade talks since last July’s midseason deadline.
At that time, many (including this author) criticized the Padres and general manager A.J. Preller for the exorbitant price they reportedly set on the left-hander, feeling that the risks involved with betting on the value retention of a reliever claimed off waivers just the year prior were too great to justify holding Hand any longer.
Despite the criticism, Preller never wavered in his asking price as the clock ticked to zero, and the trade deadline came and went with Hand still in San Diego.
LH reliever Brad Hand in agreement with #Padres on three-year extension with club option for fourth year, sources tell The Athletic. Guarantee believed to be $18M-$20M range. Deal covers final two arb years and at least one free-agent year. Option is for second free-agent year.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 13, 2018
Good thing, too (and yes, I’m happy to admit I missed on last summer’s take). All he did over the season’s final two months was seamlessly slide into the closer’s role left vacant by Brandon Maurer’s departure to Kansas City to post 21 saves (good for tenth in the National League) while maintaining excellent peripherals. On the year, Hand pitched his way to a 2.16 ERA over 79.1 innings, striking out 104 and walking just 20 to earn his first All-Star nod. Following a breakout 2016 season (2.92 ERA and 111 strikeouts in a league-leading 82 games), the performance further established Hand as one of the league’s premier bullpen options.
Hand is likely to continue to fill the closer role for as long as he is a member of the Padres, with his stamina and wipeout slider (which has drawn comparisons to Andrew Miller’s) allowing him to be manager Andy Green’s Swiss army knife at the end of a ballgame. Alongside 2017 breakout arm Craig Stammen and Japanese free agent addition Kazuhisa Makita, Hand completes the Padres’ assembly of a solid stable of relievers who will again be asked to back up a largely raw and inexperienced starting staff.
The extension also makes a trade involving the southpaw less likely at this point, with the franchise now openly committed to involving Hand in completing the team’s return to playoff contention. However, given the increased team control and affordable cost (just $6.58 million annually) that Hand’s new contract provides, the lefty’s level of financial attractiveness to other teams certainly hasn’t been diminished in the slightest, either. With the bullpen depth behind him and a bevy of World Series hopefuls in the market for relievers each summer, though, nothing can be ruled out entirely.
Ultimately, the Padres may have put the finishing touches on their best move of the 2017 offseason this morning. The Hand extension locks up another of Preller’s bargain-bin finds for the long-term, avoiding the uncomfortable nature of arbitration proceedings and keeping an elite arm in the mix at a discounted price. Most importantly, the southpaw will continue to offer stability and plenty of strikeouts as the organization prepares to reenter the contention conversation.
To top it all off, Padres broadcaster Don Orsillo gets to keep telling teams to “talk to the Hand” after the final out of the ninth.
Can’t ask for much more than that.
Noah is a current undergraduate at the University of San Diego. In addition to his classes as a Business Economics student, Noah serves as the scouting director for the nationally-ranked USD baseball team and as an NFL correspondent with The Mighty 1090. You can follow him on Twitter @thebackseatlamp