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Grading the Padres and Indians Brad Hand deal

A closer look at the trade that sent the Indians a pair of bullpen pieces for a top catching prospect.

89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard
Brad Hand is now an Indian
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians added a pair of much needed relief arms today at the expense of a very talented catching prospect.

It finally happened, the Indians are parting with prized catching prospect Francisco Mejia after nearly doing it in each of the past two years.

Cleveland Indians Grade: B+

Receive: RP Brad Hand, RP Adam Cimber

The Indians needed bullpen help and they needed it in the worst way. Not only has Andrew Miller been injured, but he has not been himself in the 14 innings he has thrown this year. Star closer Cody Allen is having a down year. After two great years Dan Otero has come back down to Earth.

Only three guys who have pitched even six innings in relief this year have an ERA+ over the league average 100 mark: the injured and not fully himself Miller’s 14 innings, 21 strong innings from journeyman Neil Ramirez, and 13 dominant innings out of 36 year old journeyman Oliver Perez.

That’s a scary bullpen situation from a team with the rotation and lineup to contend for the World Series this season. So they made the necessary move and dealt their top prospect for a pair of relief arms.

Brad Hand was a former second round pick by the Marlins who didn’t work out as a starter. He was placed on waivers at the start of the 2016 season and the Padres claimed him as they converted him to a full time reliever. It is worth noting that they also had him drop his curve in favor of adding a slider, and that move has worked out well for Hand.

Hand led the league in 2016 with 82 appearances out of the pen, posting a 2.92 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He came back in 2017 and earned an All Star selection by putting up a 2.16 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with 21 saves. He earned another All Star selection this year with 24 saves to go with his 3.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.

Overall as a Padre he pitched 213 innings in two and a half seasons and has recorded a 2.66 ERA and 1.04 WHIP to go with 46 saves and a K/9 rate of 11.8.

Hand will probably become the Indians new top setup man as the lefty has a variety of different roles- setup, closer, starter, and middle to long relief on his resume. He brings three and a half seasons of team control and is still just 28 years old, so this is a bigger investment than just the 2018 season.

Adam Cimber is a 27 year old rookie who came out of no where. He never posted big strikeout rates or big numbers in the minors until last year when he had a breakout between Double A and Triple A.

He made his big league debut this year and has been very strong. In 42 games he has 48.1 innings with a 3.17 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 51 strikeouts to 10 walks. He has pitched very well despite being a rookie right handed with just two pitches, including a fastball that averages just 86.5 MPH, as well as his slider that he throws for roughly a quarter of his pitches.

Of course with his limited stuff he is limited to right on right matchups as he holds right handers to a .210/.221/.261 slash line versus a line of .293/.391/.569 against lefties. As long as Cimber is used properly he could be used as a weapon out of the pen in his new home.

This trade immediately transforms the Cleveland pen. They were among the worst in the league and now they have moved away from that bottom group. However if Miller can get healthy and pitch close to his normal self, Allen and Otero can improve a bit in the second half, and they can keep getting some production from the likes of Neil Ramirez and Oliver Perez, one of the league’s worst bullpens would suddenly become solid.

San Diego Padres Grade: A+

Receive: C Francisco Mejia

The Padres turned a waiver wire addition and a rookie who popped up out of nowhere into a legitimate top prospect.

The Indians dealt Mejia at the trade deadline in 2016 to the Brewers in a trade for Jonathan Lucroy, only to see Lucroy use his power to veto the deal. They were heavily rumored to be dealing him last deadline as well, with the biggest ties being to a potential Yu Darvish deal.

Mejia made his big league debut in 2017 and played in 11 games, receiving 14 plate appearances. He has appeared in one game and had four plate appearances this year. His stats aren’t strong, but it’s almost a non-existent sample size of irregular playing time.

Mejia has had a strange year in the minors to say the least. His overall Triple A line of .277/.330/.423 with 22 doubles and 7 homers looks solid for a catcher...but there is a lot more to the story. He’s posted some very concerning splits. Look at his slash line by month below:

April: 96 PA, .187/.229/.286

May: 89 PA, .192/.291/.301

June: 104 PA, .455/.476/.717

July: 51 PA, .205/.294/.250

Mejia has been absolutely awful for three of the four months of this season. It may be a case of a guy who isn’t trying hard because he isn’t happy with being in the minors because there is so much talent.

You can’t forget that he hit .297/.346/.490 with 14 homers in 92 Double A games last year, and that follows his magical 2016 season where he split the year between two levels of A ball and hit a combined .342/.382/.514 with 11 homers to go with his 50 game hitting streak.

His defense is below average behind the plate, but he has a huge arm and the Indians have tried him at third base and in both corner outfield positions to try to figure a way to get his plus hit tool in the lineup.

Mejia has some issues with his glove and some questions about his attitude, but his upside is huge as he is a true plus hitter with above average power, a big arm, and a great track record of success.

The Padres were smart to deal a pair of relievers, including one guy who popped up out of no where this year to get such a promising talent behind the plate, Mejia could take over the starting role in San Diego and push the defensively talented and hitting limited Austin Hedges into the backup role he belongs in.