As the trading deadline approaches the San Diego Padres’ most coveted trade piece has begun to draw interest from a team that has the 6th best farm system in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.
The Padres’ left-handed relief ace has continued his career resurgence as a Friar, sporting a career-high 35.3 percent strikeout rate across 41.1 innings pitched in 2018 while also experiencing a one mph increase in average fastball velocity.
Brad Hand has been utilized as a multi-inning closer-type who could enter the game anytime once the seventh inning hits and the Padres have a lead. This unorthodox usage has showcased Hand’s versatility as a reliever as he hasn’t been confined to the archetypal closer role where the pitcher is only usable for one inning before completely melting down.
Relievers have been fetching very impressive returns as of late, with the Andrew Miller and Ken Giles trades standing out in particular. Both were controllable past the year that they were acquired, which added to their value and maximized their former teams’ returns. It sure is a good thing that the Padres signed Hand to a three-year contract extension with a fourth year option prior to the 2018 season, huh?
Hand will not be cheap, nor should he be. A.J. Preller seems to have a price in mind and until that is offered, he will not move the 28 year-old. Preller’s front office moves have been incredibly difficult to predict, but there are a few players that could conceivably come up in talks for the Padres’ top relief weapon.
In recent day’s, that’s right, the New York Yankees have come calling for Brad Hand for the second year in a row. Jon Heyman of Fanrag Sports tweeted the Yankees’ interest in beefing up their bullpen, with Hand in mind:
yankees are among teams with interest in Zach Britton. (also Brad Hand). others who’d make sense include: astros (had the deal which Baltimore killed last year), cubs, Indians, maybe dodgers, others.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 8, 2018
Taking a look at the Padres’ options.
Third baseman Miguel Andujar probably slots in as an unlikely candidate to be moved as he has amassed some pretty impressive counting stats (12 home runs, 25 doubles) despite posting a below-average walk rate of 3.9-percent through 80 big-league games. Andujar was the Yankees’ fourth-best prospect going into 2018 and has received praise for his above-average power and rocket arm.
He profiles best as a third baseman (a definite need for the Padres) and although his defense has graded out poorly according to various defensive statistics, he is still young enough to figure it out. Andujar would most likely only be moved in a one-for-one trade and that same sentiment probably applies to the Yankees current number one prospect, Estevan Florial.
The 20 year-old outfielder is the 37th ranked prospect in all of baseball and possesses intriguing tools such as above-average speed and raw power. Florial has a plus-arm and profiles as a center fielder but he is still very raw and has been aggressively promoted in his short time in the minors. The odds of the Padres securing Florial in a trade are relatively slim but Preller has surprised the baseball world before.
Justus Sheffield should stick out to Preller and Co. as he has dominated both Double-A and Triple-A thus far in 2018. Just 22 years of age, Sheffield is a left-handed starting pitcher who fits the organization’s recent philosophical shift towards targeting left-handed starters. Although he doesn’t profile as an ace down the line, Sheffield has all the makings of a mid-rotation stalwart who could pitch above that profile from time to time.
Trading Hand for Sheffield straight up wouldn’t be a very smart move for the Padres, but if the Yankees include one or two high-ceiling prospects, they could find themselves coming up with a very good return. Right-handed flamethrower Luis Medina or six-foot seven righty Domingo Acevedo as well as an under-the-radar athlete such as outfielder Everson Pereira could entice the Padres enough to pull the trigger as long as Sheffield were to be included in the package. Medina and Acevedo both rely on their overpowering stuff to sit down opposing batters while Pereira fits the same raw, athletic mold as Florial, albeit with much less raw power.
One name to keep an eye on is Clint Frazier, as he may not fit into the Yankees’ crowded outfield picture when all is said and done. Still only 23 years old, Frazier has plus-power and grades out as average or above across the board. This is purely speculation but Frazier is a player who deserves everyday at-bats at the major league level as there is only so much he can do in the minors at this point of his career.
Although the Yankees system is very deep, the Padres won’t just take whatever combination of prospects the Bronx Bombers throw at them. Preller is holding out for a big return that justifies moving a player of Hand’s caliber. The team should be targeting Andujar, Frazier, and Florial in potential Hand returns but receiving a package that includes Sheffield and a few others shouldn’t be out of the question either.
As an organization, the Padres have played a lot of cards close to their chests with Preller in charge and they haven’t made a lot of reactionary sell-off deals, instead choosing to make moves when the return is maximized. Brad Hand is by far the team’s best trade chip at present, so expect the front office to only deal him if they get a return they are 100-percent happy with. Fortunately for Preller and Padres fans alike, these two team might line up on something big.