The Manny Machado deal may have opened the floodgates as contenders rush to improve their roster. The Cleveland Indians’ needs have been more on display than most contenders as they have blown some high profile games so far this season. A part of that is natural bullpen volatility and part of that has been key injuries to stalwarts like Andrew Miller. The Indians took the first steps to correct that when they acquired Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the San Diego Padres in exchange for top catching prospect Francisco Mejia.
Why the Indians make this deal?
This deal is radically different from the deal the Dodgers just made. Hand is signed through 2020, so this is a lot more than just a rental. Cody Allen is currently serving as the closer and has been reasonably good, but upgrades are always welcome. Of course, the Indians made a similar deal in 2016 when they added Miller at the deadline. It was assumed at the time that Miller would take over as the closer and he never did. Instead, he served as a kind of relief ace that teams used to utilize back in the good old days. So, it is equally likely that Hand will serve as the closer as it is that he will serve in setup role. Either way, Hand is vitally important in helping the Indians in shortening the game. This is especially true when Miller returns to health.
Cimber is more than a mere throw in here. He has a 3.17 ERA in 48.3 relief innings this season. He is another pitcher capable of throwing multiple relief innings in middle relief. Adding both of these relievers may have just closed the hole in the Indians bullpen. Add that bullpen to their strong rotation and no team in the American League may be able to compete with that pitching staff.
Why the Padres make this deal?
This is not nearly as simple as the Dodgers and Orioles deal. The Padres had Hand and Cimber under club control, so making this deal was a calculated gamble. Instead of bringing in three or four prospects, they settled on one really good one. Keith Law recently ranked Mejia among his top ten prospects in all of baseball. Baseball America has him rated in their top 25. The obvious thought here is that he will serve as the Padres catcher of the future as soon as they deem him ready.
The decision to acquire one prospect in lieu of three or four is an interesting one. We could debate the wisdom of that for the time being, but if Mejia is the real deal he is easily worth more than two relief pitchers. If he isn’t then the Padres may have fired one of their trade bullets needlessly before they needed to. It has often been said here that a top notch closer is a waste on a team that is rebuilding, but he isn’t a waste in terms of a trade piece. This decision will be scrutinized for years.
What this deal means for you
Obviously, as we said earlier, there is no telling how the Indians will use Hand. If you are a Hand owner in a league that only utilizes saves I would be extremely nervous. If your league uses holds and saves then you should be okay one way or another. You might even come out better in the end as the Indians will get more opportunities for saves or holds. Mejia isn’t likely to be owned in leagues outside of those playing dynasty, but he might be a catcher option in deeper leagues. Like the Indians, there is no telling how long the Padres will wait on him.