Posted on July 19, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Cleveland Indians have bolstered their bullpen in a big way for both the present and future. Thursday, the Tribe acquired relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber in a trade with the San Diego Padres. In exchange, the Padres have received Cleveland’s prized catching prospect Francisco Mejia.
The Indians hold a comfortable lead at the top of the AL Central. However, they are not on the same level as the Red Sox, Astros, and Yankees. If the Indians hope to advance past those teams in the postseason, they need to get better. Adding Hand and Cimber is a big step toward making that happen.
Hand has been an all-star each of the past two seasons while serving as San Diego’s closer. This year, Hand has saved 24 games in 29 opportunities and posted a 3.05 ERA. He’s also dominated left-handed hitters, who are batting just .148 against him.
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Cimber doesn’t have Hand’s notoriety, but he’s also been an effective reliever for the Padres this year. The 27-year old sidearmer didn’t reach the big leagues until this year. However, he made San Diego’s opening day roster and has posted a 3.17 ERA over 48.1 innings.
Cleveland’s bullpen has been a strength for the Indians in recent years, but that has not been the case this season. Closer Cody Allen has a disappointing 4.66 ERA. Dan Otero has seen his ERA leap from 2.85 last year to 5.60 this season. Andrew Miller, meanwhile, continues to battle injuries and hasn’t been all that impressive when he’s been able to pitch. Only the Royals have a worse bullpen ERA than the Indians.
Cleveland is hopeful that the addition of Hand and Cimber can help transform the bullpen much like the acquisition of Miller two years ago did. Allen is likely to remain the closer for the time being. But Hand will give the Indians a proven closer operating in a setup role. Cimber should also add depth to Cleveland’s bullpen and help take some pressure of Otero.
For the Indians, this trade is also an investment for the future. Both Allen and Miller are free agents after the season. Hand, meanwhile, is under team control through 2021. He could easily be the team’s closer at the start of next season if not sooner. Cimber is under team control through 2023, so he could also be a long-term asset for the Cleveland bullpen.
As for the Padres, they have received the top catching prospect in baseball in Mejia. He is also the no. 15 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. He’s considered a plus hitter with a fair amount of power and exceptional arm strength behind the plate. Mejia is hitting .279 with an OPS of .755 at triple-A. The Padres aren’t getting much offense out of young backstop Austin Hedges right now. They could be looking to call up Mejia in the not-too-distant future.
With Mejia, the Padres now have 10 of the top 100 prospects in baseball. It’s possible that they have just acquired their catcher of the future. Parting with him could not have been easy for the Indians. Of course, it helps to have all-star Yan Gomes under contract for a few more years. The Indians were also able to add a pair of relievers who should help their struggling bullpen right away and for years to come. In that sense, both teams could look back at this trade in a few years and be satisfied with it.