The Indians have acquired relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the Padres for multi-position prospect Francisco Mejia, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Robert Murray first reported Thursday morning:
Hand, a left-hander who has been an All-Star for the past two seasons, is a massive add for the Tribe. The 28-year-old has a 3.05 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 65 strikeouts, and 15 walks over 44.1 innings this season. He has 24 saves in 41 appearances.
Cimber, a sidewinding right-hander who finally broke into the majors at 27 years old, is also an extremely intriguing addition. In 42 appearances this season, he has a 3.17 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 51 strikeouts and 10 walks over 48.1 innings. Whereas most right-handed submariners are good only in short bursts, Cimber obviously has averaged more than an inning per appearance this year. Like most submariners, though, he has struggled against his opposite side while dominating against the corresponding one: righties are hitting .210/.221/.261 against him, while lefties are slashing .293/.391/.569.
Hand and Cimber provide a major boost to an Indians bullpen that has been one of the majors’ worst this season. They have a collective 5.28 ERA in 257.1 innings, and guys like Tyler Olson, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, and Josh Tomlin have struggled. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen had rough first halves as well, though as two of the game’s top relievers Cleveland clearly expects them to bounce back down the stretch.
With Miller and Allen set to hit free agency after this season, it’s very possible that the Indians will turn to Hand — who is under contract through 2020 with a $10 million club option for 2021 — as their closer of the future. Cimber, who is making the league minimum as a rookie, obviously is a candidate to grow into a bigger role as time goes on.
Mejia, 22, was rated as the No. 15 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, largely off the strength of a 2016 season during which he hit .342/.382/.514 over a total of 336 plate appearances at two different levels of A-ball. He was seemingly without a position, though, as his defensive skills were questionable and Cleveland already had two good catchers in Roberto Perez, one of the game’s best defenders, and Yan Gomes, who was just named an All-Star for the first time. Mejia had seen action at the corner outfield spots in the minors this season after previously trying to switch to third base without success. It’s possible that keeping fresh at multiple positions disrupted his progress at the plate, though, as he had posted a .279/.328/.426 slash line with seven homers in 336 Triple-A plate appearances.
Mejia, who joined Cleveland for the final game before the All-Star break, went 0 for 2 with two walks in his first major-league game of the season. In 14 plate appearances as a September call-up last year, he hit .154/.214/.154.
Per The Athletic’s Dennis Lin, the Padres will allow Mejia to focus on his natural position of catcher. It’s unclear where that will leave 25-year-old Austin Hedges, who was one of the best prospects in baseball not too long ago and is already one of the elite defensive catchers in the majors. His bat was slow to acclimate to the big leagues, but he’s recently heated up at the plate and is hitting .382/.432/.618 in July, raising his season slash line to .232/.289/.376 — a reasonable one for a catcher who’s as good behind the plate as Hedges is. Whether that leads to some type of timeshare like the one Cleveland currently employs or one of the catchers eventually becoming trade bait, San Diego certainly has more position-player options than it had yesterday.