Toronto Blue Jays reportedly checking in on Brad Hand

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 14: Brad Hand #33 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning at Progressive Field on July 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Twins 4-3. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 14: Brad Hand #33 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning at Progressive Field on July 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Twins 4-3. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
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In the first excessively shocking move of the off-season, the Cleveland Indians waived lefty reliever Brad Hand. The Toronto Blue Jays are looking to pick him up.

Saying the Toronto Blue Jays are interested in bringing Brad Hand across the border feels like the understatement of the century. But alas, here we are in 2020.

According to Jon Morosi, the Blue Jays have been checking in with Hand a few weeks after he was waived by the Cleveland Indians.

Of course, they should be. Hand is one of the best relievers in the game. The fact that Cleveland was unwilling to pick up the $10 million he was owed in 2021 is absolutely absurd. But I guess we can’t be too shocked seeing as they’re also actively shopping one of the best shortstops in the game. Especially when they’ve been making it clear for years that they have no intention on paying Francisco Lindor a fair contract to lock him down long term.

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But $10 million for Brad Hand? That’s really not all that much. Why wouldn’t you shop him around too? Are you really that worried that there would be no takers on a 2020 reliever of the year finalist? If they had held onto Hand until the 2021 trade deadline they easily could have gotten back some nice prospects in return.

Regardless of Cleveland’s aggressively cheap business model, Hand is on the open market and any team would be lucky to sign him. In 2020, he finished in the top 5% of the league in xBA, wOBA, xwOBA, and xERA and finished in the top 10% of the league in strikeout rate and walk rate. The only real concerns with his advanced metrics are his rising barrel rate, which jumped from 6.6% to 8.2%, and average launch angle, which has jumped from 11.9% in 2018 to 24.2% in 2020. Consequentially, he posted a career low in ground ball rate of 26.5%. At 30 years old, there could be some concern about his strikeout potential long term, and if he’s going to allow hard contact in the air, that could lead to some ugly stat lines.

But for 2021, he’s a perfect fit for a Blue Jays team that’s looking to move up in the division. They have a nice young core of hitters, including a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. that looks like he’s lost 50 pounds this off-season. Hyun-jin Ryu finished third in the Cy Young race in 2020 and top prospect Nate Pearson is looking to have a strong season in 2021.

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Adding an experienced arm like Hand to the bullpen is kind of a no brainer move for any team. But for the Toronto Blue Jays, it could be one of the moves that lock them into a playoff spot for 2021. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but signing Hand should be one of their top priorities this off-season.