It’s no secret that the Indians needed bullpen help. Their bullpen’s 5.28 ERA ranks 29th in the MLB. Today, they finally were able to upgrade it, as they acquired all-star closer Brad Hand and reliever Adam Cimber from the Padres in exchange for their top prospect in catcher Francisco Mejia. Hand, 28, has a 3.05 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 3.17 FIP. Cimber, 26, has a 3.17 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 2.32 FIP. Let’s examine the Indians side of this blockbuster trade.
As mentioned before, the Indians have the second-worst bullpen in all of baseball. There a couple of reasons for this. The first reason is that their two main guys, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, have dealt with issues. The former has a 4.66 ERA while the latter has been injured for most of the season. The second is that besides those two, there wasn’t any depth after them. Getting two solid relievers in Hand and Cimber will certainly solve that issue, as now manager Terry Francona has four reliable relievers. Hand can also take the pressure off of Allen by closing some games or just becoming the full-time closer. Either way, the Indians bullpen got a major upgrade and should definitely no longer be a liability.
Another thing important about Hand and Cimber is that they’re both controlled well past 2018. Hand is controlled through 2021, while Cimber is controlled through 2023. That’s especially important considering both Allen and Miller are free agents at the end of the year. Cleveland was “prioritizing controllable relievers”, according to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.Com, so this was clearly something they wanted to prepare for. Now, they don’t need to try to overpay to keep Allen or Miller and can let them leave in free agency if the asking price is too high for them. They went from being in a very tough situation in free agency to be an excellent position. It can be argued the duo of Hand and Cimber is better than the duo of Allen and Miller in the long run, as the latter duo is younger and cheaper.
Now, this was a very tough price to pay. They had to give up their prized prospect in catcher Francisco Mejia. The 22 switch-hitting catcher has a polished MLB ready bat, a strong arm, and is extremely athletic. He’s still learning the catching position, but he definitely looked like Cleveland’s catcher of the future. Trading him could become a problem, as neither Yan Gomes (.247/.306/.437 1.1 WAR 31 years old) or Roberto Perez (.148/.231/.222 -0.5 WAR 29 years old) are a long-term solution at catcher. Now, Cleveland did draft a catcher in high schooler Noah Naylor in this year’s MLB draft, but he’s four to five years away. Therefore, it would be in Cleveland’s best interest to sign or trade for a catcher until Naylor is ready. The price was going to be steep to get a controllable reliever of Hand’s caliber, not to mention another solid controllable reliever of Cimber’s caliber. Cleveland has a history of making these type of trades, as they traded for Miller in 2016 in a package headlined by outfielder Clint Fraizer, a top 25 prospect at the time, and another top 100 prospect in pitcher Justus Sheffield. While Miller has struggled with injuries in 2017 and 2018, he was one of the main reasons Cleveland got to the World Series in 2016. Hand is also three years younger, while there also getting another reliever in Cimber. Considering that, you’d assumed they’d have to give up more than they did for Miller. However, Mejia was the only prospect they had to give up, and Cleveland had no choice but to pay the tough price to help them in the short term and long term.
Having to give up their future backstop in Mejia is what prevents this from being an “A” for the Indians, but I’d still give them an “A-”. They got two controllable relievers, which help them both in the short term and long term. It was a tough price to pay, but it’s one the Indians had to pay.