We all knew this day was coming, and some thought it would have come a while ago, but Brad Hand is now a former Padre. The All-Star reliever has been traded to the Cleveland Indians along with bullpen mate Adam Cimber for one of the best catcher prospects in the game, Francisco Mejia. The Padres made the announcement this morning.
Brad Hand was the Padres’ lone representative in the All-Star game in 2017 & 2018. Acquired via waiver claim from the Marlins in April 2016, the former starter flourished in the Padres bullpen, eventually taking over closer duties after the departure of Fernando Rodney in the middle of the 2016 season. The lefty relied on a nasty slider and pinpoint fastball location to dominate batters from both sides of the plate. He signed a three-year team-friendly extension prior to the 2018 season, which made him more valuable in trade talks this year. In his 195 appearances for the Friars, Hand posted a 2.66 ERA and a 1.038 WHIP, racking up 280 K’s against only 71 BB’s. He was Andy Green’s go-to guy in high leverage situations, and he was one of the game’s best during his tenure in San Diego.
Adam Cimber is a rookie in 2018, but he hasn’t pitched like one. The 27-year-old sidearmer was one of the best feel-good stories of the season. Given an invite to major league spring training, few thought that Cimber would make it deep into March with the big league club, but he refused to go away. He never gave up a run. The team had no reasonable option but to bring Cimber up for Opening Day, and he’s been excellent all season. He’s done everything the team has asked of him, and notched a stellar 127 ERA+ and 2.32 FIP along the way. Dennis Lin spoke with Cimber, his dad, and his coaches along the way to learn more about his background and how he developed all of his quirks on the mound. As a fan who has spent a lot of time at the bullpen this year, I can attest that Cimber is a great guy to root for, a humble and nice young man, and I’ll continue to be a fan of his wherever his career will take him.
In return, the Padres are recieving the Indians’ top prospect, Francisco Mejia. He’s a switch-hitting slugger who has spent most of his career behind the dish. His profile as a power hitter with a cannon arm invokes memories of Christian Bethancourt, but scouts don’t have the same kinds of doubts about Mejia’s work ethic and game management. He’s seen limited time at third base and has split his time in AAA in the corner outfield slots this season, so there is some defensive versatility in Mejia. He will slot into the 40-man roster immediately and has two option seasons left after this year. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs listed Mejia as the game’s 17th best prospect entering the 2018 season, and he had this to say:
Mejia wasn’t/isn’t a lost cause as a defensive catching prospect, but his bat is almost ready for the big leagues and this prompted a move to third base during the Arizona Fall League to accelerate his timetable to Cleveland. He certainly has the arm for third. It’s an 80-grade howitzer that elicited audible gasps from AFL crowds. His hands and footwork at third remain a work in progress.
Mejia’s swing isn’t graceful or attractive, but he finds ways to get the bat head to the baseball and hit the ball hard. He has elite hand-eye coordination and bat control. He’s a little too aggressive at the plate, so the OBP and game power might both play down if he doesn’t become more selective, and we’re in wait-and-see mode on the defense.
With Austin Hedges entrenched as the defensive wiz behind the dish, Mejia immediately supplants Austin Allen as the potential future backup backstop. Allen has been having a banner year in AA San Antonio and has drawn praise for his improvements in defense, but there have always been lingering concerns regarding his long-term ability to stay behind the plate. The team will have some decisions to make with switch-hitting Raffy Lopez and veteran AJ Ellis on the major league roster to back up Hedges, not to mention the trio of AJ Kennedy, Stephen McGee, and Brett Nicholas in El Paso. Mejia will likely head to El Paso, but expect to see a shakeup on the Chihuahuas’ roster to make the room.