It's been no secret the Cleveland Indians' greatest weakness was their bullpen.
Yes, they have Andrew Miller, but his season has been ravaged by separate injuries; a balky right knee, and then a strained hamstring. There's also Cody Allen, who helped spearhead an effective bullpen on their march to the World Series in 2016, but he's been wildly inconsistent this year.
So the expectation that the Indians would be major players for a top reliever near the trade deadline has become a reality. It was announced Thursday, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Indians acquired Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the San Diego Padres for top catching prospect Francisco Mejia, marking the first major trade post-Manny Machado.
Bullpen help has arrived
Brad Hand has established himself as a top closer while toiling away in anonymity with the San Diego Padres. You are forgiven if you aren't familiar with his stats, considering West Coast coverage is hard enough to come by (just ask Mike Trout); doubly so for a team like the Padres.
Both 2016 and 2017 saw Hand, 28, post sub 3.00 ERA, the lowest coming last year with a sparkling 2.16 ERA paired with 104 strikeouts in 79.1 innings. This year, he's featured an improved strikeout rate of 13.2 compared to last years 11.9 strikeouts-per-nine innings. He's already eclipsed last years total saves (21) with 24 this year, while also on pace to surpass his total appearances from last year. As soon as Miller returns from his strained hamstring, both he and Hand will form an effective one-two southpaw punch to solidify the late innings that are ever-crucial in the playoffs.
Adam Cimber, 27, has enjoyed a solid season that will make him a depth right-handed reliever who'll eat up the middle innings when necessary. In 48.1 innings pitched, he has a 3.17 ERA with 51 strikeouts. While his 42 hits allowed and WHIP at a respectable 1.07 indicates he's not as much as a strikeout artist as teammate Hand, he's only allowed two home runs.
The price the Indians had to pay for Hand and Cimber comes in the form of Francisco Mejia, a top catching prospect whose profile can be viewed here. But for the Indians, it was a deal made out of a place of strength; their catching corps, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, will remain under team control until 2022 and 2023, respectively. Such was their logjam behind the plate, the Indians were giving Mejia some playing time in the outfield to increase his versatility. His bat (a .279/.328/.426 slash at Triple-A) has always been there, it's just been a matter of finding him consistent playing time.
Time will tell who wins this deal but on paper, the Indians have executed a solid move to fortify a bullpen that has failed to meet the standards of an excellent pitching rotation. There's no doubt the Indians, barring a major collapse, will win the AL Central; their sights will be focused on facing either the Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners, or Astros.
And with this deal, despite how steep of a loss Mejia will be, ensures the Indians' window stays open a little longer since both Hand and Cimber will remain under contract, with Cimber having five years of team control while Hand's contract expires after the 2021 season.
The Indians, in their quest for a championship that has eluded them for 70 years, haven't been afraid to execute major deals (Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield for Andrew Miller) involving their top prospects for Major League talent.
This deal is no different.