The Dodgers have struggled at the onset of the 2018 season and that is in large part due to an unimpressive showing from their bullpen. The pen’s inconsistencies have played culprit in multiple losses and, although it may be early, a trade for a new face could be what the team needs to change their fortune. For that, the front office should look no further than the Division rival Padres for a viable new arm.
Brad Hand has been a staple in the Padres bullpen ever since coming to San Diego in 2016. The 28-year old lefty has not only been one of San Diego’s best but, one of the MLB’s best relievers in that stretch. His dominance in the late innings of games has sent him to an All-Star game and has brought him into baseball’s spotlight even on a last-place caliber Padres team.
Hand has been incredible in San Diego. Pitching typically in save situations, he learned quickly to dominate his opponents by way of strikeout, and to pitch to both righties and lefties. Since 2016, Brand Hand has an ERA+ of 156, a mark 56 points above an average pitcher.
Hand’s ERA+ is a great indicator for his statistics, all of which would not only be a great fit in Los Angeles but would do a tremendous service for a bullpen that has been inconsistent since the beginning of the season.
In 183.1 innings, his total from 2016 until the present, Hand has struck out 236 batters for a strikeouts per nine innings rate of 11.6. His WHIP, just as impressive at 1.036. Hand has been incredible and his stats speak for themselves in arguing that point. But, trading for someone of that caliber is often expensive and that is where the Dodgers biggest challenge lies.
Last year, Hand was on the chopping block for the Padres. They were open to offers and wanted to trade the dominant lefty to aid their rebuild process. But, they were greedy and quite frankly over-asking in trades with anyone who approached them.
A source familiar with the situation said the Padres demanded the best of the Dodgers prospect list to get a deal done:
“They were ridiculous. They asked for both Buehler and Verdugo for Hand and after a lot of
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haggling, the price came down to just Verdugo. There was no way the Dodgers were doing it”
And they shouldn’t have. Hand is a great pitcher but the future of the Dodgers is more important, a future that arguably laid in the hands of both Buehler and Verdugo. The Dodgers took a smart pass on that trade.
But, this year is a new year and the Padres have had time to consider how they will handle this situation moving forward. Hand is still elite but his statistics have seen a slight decline at the start of this season although they are not deterring a possible trade.
If the Padres wanted to get something done they easily could do it with the Dodgers in a trade that would benefit both sides. The Dodgers have the perfect combination of prospects they do not need and prospects the Padres could want to add to an already incredible minor league system.
The first piece in the return could be Yadier Alvarez. The young righty fits the bill for starters in the Padres system as he is a hard-throwing, young, project. Alvarez still needs work to unlock his true potential but with a full-blown rebuild in San Diego, they can afford to take on a player that needs some work.
While some may think Alvarez alone could get it done, he will not. The Dodgers second piece in this trade would someone like Will Smith. Smith is a great catcher. He has garnered the interest of other major league teams in the past and this scenario would likely be no exception.
Smith makes any system better with his good defensive skills, ability to move around the diamond, power, and good contact hitting. He would be a great piece in this trade.
Hesitant to add more, the Dodgers could look to the bottom of their pecking order in terms of prospects to round this out. Guys in the zone of Donovan Casey, Errol Robinson, and others like them could be perfect third pieces to the trade.
Next: Dodgers: Will a Redemption Game Turn the Bullpen Around?
As mentioned earlier, the Dodgers’ pen is struggling. Adding someone with late-inning experience, and most importantly, success, Brad Hand could be the answer to the team’s prayers. And, for the right price, this is not a deal that needs to wait for the deadline this year. Help is wanted right now.