Brad Hand is still with the San Diego Padres, which is a little hard to believe considering he spent July serving as baseball’s Human Trade Rumor.
The left-handed reliever was selected to his first All-Star Game last month. Yet it seemed all everyone wanted to ask Hand during the festivities in Miami was who he thought would acquire him before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
“I didn’t let it bother me,” Hand said. “Really, what I was going to do? I have no say if I get traded. It was all out of my control.
Yet the trading deadline passed and Hand is still with the rebuilding Padres. That is a bit of a stunner considering nearly every contender was linked to the 27-year-old in trade reports.
Again, Hand didn’t sweat it. Though he was born and raised in Minneapolis, his laid-back personality is a perfect match for San Diego and Southern California.
“I was really 50-50 about a trade,” the seven-year veteran said. “Part of me thought it would be fun to go to a contender, get thrown into a pennant race and maybe get to the playoffs and even the World Series. And part of me thought it would be good to stay right here. I love playing for the Padres, I really enjoy San Diego and I think we some interesting young players on this team.
“I looked it like I couldn’t lose regardless of what happened.”
The Padres reportedly drove a hard bargain for Hand and no team met their asking price. It is understandable why general manager A.J. Preller would want a lot in return as Hand has a 2.23 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 55 games and 60.2 innings this season to go with 80 strikeouts.
Until blowing a save Thursday when he gave up a grand slam to Scooter Gennett in a loss to the Reds at Cincinnati, Hand had made 23 consecutive scoreless appearances covering 24 innings, dating to June 14.
Hand has added to his value by being promoted to closer from set-up man following the trade of Brandon Maurer to the Kansas City Royals on July 24. Hand converted his first six save opportunities as Maurer’s replacement before Thursday’s hiccup but bounced back Friday night and got a four-out save in a road victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It is not uncommon for set-up men to struggle making the transition to closer. However, Padres manager Andy Green did not hesitate to move Hand up in the bullpen pecking order.
“Not for a second,” Green said. “I understand the question and I’ve seen some guys who could handle the eighth inning but couldn’t handle the ninth but I had zero fear that would be the case with Brad. He has become an outstanding relief pitcher and he would excel in any situation you put him in.”
Hand has enjoyed closing and not placed an extra pressure on himself.
“It’s really no different pitching the ninth inning than the eight innings,” Hand said. “In fact, depending on where (the opponent) is in the batting order, the eighth inning can be more difficult than the ninth at times. I just try to get guys out, regardless of the inning or the situation.”
In the offseason, Hand likely will be subject of plenty of trade rumors again as the Padres continue to try to stockpile prospects, especially since they can market him as a closer.
Hand is also not eligible for free agency until following the 2019 season, also adding to his attractiveness as a trade chip.
Yet though the Padres are in fourth place in the National League West, 30 games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers, Hand is encouraged by the youth movement. San Diego had its first winning month since 2015 in July, going 14-11.
“I think we’re building something good,” Hand said. “I’d be glad to stay here and be part of it. We’ll see what happens.”