We think we may know why Brad Hand chose the Nationals over the Dodgers in free agency.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were long viewed as a suitor for Brad Hand, who led the league in saves this past season, only to get dumped by the Cleveland Indians. The floundering AL Central club rejected the left-hander’s $10 million team option and let him hit the open market.
While the Dodgers seemed like the obvious frontrunner because of all they have to offer, it makes total sense why Hand decided to sign with the Washington Nationals over the weekend. The left-hander figures to have plenty of MLB years left in him, so at the moment, a ring isn’t of paramount concern.
Rebuilding his value, having a defined bullpen role, and getting a lucrative multi-year contract next offseason when (hopefully) everything gets back to normal feel like three more important factors for Hand at this very moment.
Not only that, but he managed to make a shade more than he would’ve if Cleveland picked up his option. Not only did Hand get a $1 million buyout from the Indians, but he also received an extra $500K in his one-year contract with the Nats and will have a chance to bet on himself while closing for a contending team. After all, this is what it would’ve been if the Indians had just picked up his option. If not for their inexplicable teardown, Hand was always going to be a 2022 FA.
The fact of the matter is only a couple of teams were looking to spend big on relievers. The White Sox did it with Liam Hendriks. The Dodgers would’ve done it had the right opportunity arose, but instead they went with high-upside cost-effective arms and capitalized on the market. Nobody else is spending, and the most unreasonable expense to have on your payroll if you’re not a big-time contender is a pricey closer.
And when you look at the Dodgers, their biggest issue — if you’re a free agent closer — is that they don’t have concrete roles in their bullpen. It’s more of a “by committee” situation, with manager Dave Roberts deploying his arms as he sees fit, regardless of the supposed hierarchy.
A guy like Hand, who had a bit of a weak market after a tremendous 2020, certainly wasn’t going to put himself in that kind of a position yet. He’s got one more try to recreate his ninth-inning dominance to parlay that into another contract.
If he can’t, the Dodgers will always be there, looking for a left-hander to use from innings 5-9.