As the MLB Winter Meetings begin December 10 in Orlando, Florida, the name Brad Hand will surely come up.
He is one of the best relievers available on the trade market and teams are conscious that A.J. Preller is not shy about pulling the trigger on a deal. You can link the prized left-handed pitcher to virtually any team that is in contention. From the Cubs and Yankees, to the Dodgers and Nationals, there is a definite need for quality bullpen options.
The subject of this piece will be the Minnesota Twins – a team that came out of nowhere last season to earn an A.L. Wild Card spot. One year after being one of the worst teams in all of major league baseball, the Twins became a relevant team in MLB.
Brad Hand is a Minnesota native and would obviously be happy with a possible trade to the Twin Cities. It is, of course, not his decision. The Twins would need to have interest, and they surely do. There have been some rumors linking Hand to the Twins, but nothing concrete has surfaced. Minnesota needs immediate bullpen help, including a closer. They will be very active on the trade front as well as the free agent market this winter.
We know there is interest in Hand, but what do the Twins have to offer?
Their farm system is in pretty good shape and the Padres could surely find a very talented youngster. Here are some potential prospects to keep an eye on.
Nick Gordon would be a huge acquisition for the Padres. I mean HUGE. When he isn’t recording rap songs, Gordon can be found on the baseball diamond improving his skill. The son of Tom Gordon and half-brother of Dee Gordon, Nick comes with a high pedigree. He has outstanding skills and is a shortstop. The former #1 pick (5th overall) of the Twins hit .270/.341/.408 in 122 games and 519 at bats at the Double-A level. He has developing power and will not be a “Punch and Judy” hitter like his brother. The Twins’ #2 prospect would not come cheap, and it remains to be seen if the Twins would even consider moving him.
At 22, Gordon seems major league ready. The Twins have Royce Lewis, who was the #1 pick last year, and they also have Wander Javier in the system. They have depth at the position, and losing Gordon would not be catastrophic to the team. He is very highly regarded, though. The left-handed-hitting Gordon has a great floor. He will be a major league regular at some point in his career, or at least he should be. There are some minor concerns about his ability to play short long-term, but he has decent hands and a plus arm. He should have no problem sticking there if he continues to work on his footwork and improve his quickness. He has speed, but is not considered a speed burner. Gordon would be a huge addition for the Padres, but again, he would not come cheap, and Brad Hand by himself probably wouldn’t get the deal done.
Fernando Romero could be an option for the Friars. He is the Twins’ #4 prospect and is close to being major league ready. The undersized right-handed pitcher has a high 90’s fastball. He missed most of two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but at the age of 23, he has plenty of upside. He was 11-9 last year with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP in 24 games and 23 starts. He struck out 120 batters in 125 innings pitched. The Padres don’t presently need starting pitchers in the minor league system, but Romero could emerge as a setup man or closer eventually. He has a decent slider, but his lack of a third pitch is a bit troubling as far as his future is concerned.
John Curtiss is an interesting pitcher to take note of. He is the #19 prospect in the Twins’ system. The reliever is major league ready and has the ability to be a decent setup option. The 24-year-old was 2-0 last year in 39 games with a 1.28 ERA. He also saved 19 games and struck out 68 batters in 49.1 innings pitched. His fastball sits in the upper 90’s and he teams that with a serviceable slider. He saved six games last year at the Triple-A level and could be a decent option for a team in 2018.
Jake Reed is someone the Padres could be eyeing. He is 25 and a reliever at the Triple-A level. He recorded six saves last year with a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings. Reed throws a hard sinker and gets plenty of ground ball outs. He has a decent slider and a developing change. His mechanics were refined recently as he had issues with control. He throws from a 3/4 arm slot and that can be a problem from time to time. He is not a great prospect, but could be a decent throw-in on a deal.
Here are some major leaguers to keep an eye on:
Eduardo Escobar would be an interesting option. The switch-hitting utility man is very capable of playing shortstop. He holds a career .979 fielding percentage in over 300 major league games and 2,300 innings. Escobar is capable of playing third, second, and the outfield, as well as short. He even caught for an inning in 2017.
Escobar is penciled in as Miguel Sano‘s backup at third and the backup to Jorge Polanco at short. At 29, he is not a long-term option, but could be serviceable in 2018. He put up a .254/.309/.449 batting line in 457 at bats and 129 games. He is a career .253 hitter in over 1,900 at bats. Think of Escobar as a bigger, stronger Alexi Amarista (with no speed). Not a huge addition for the team, but still a nice little potential pickup. He is due for arbitration and could earn somewhere around $5 million dollars for the 2018 season
Kennys Vargas needs a change of scenery. I have always liked this slugger. He is 27 and a switch hitter. Vargas is a big man and a real power threat. He can only play first base and is arguably better suited as a DH. He uses the whole field from both sides of the plate with his swing. The Twins have failed to give him consistent major league at bats, though he has played fairly well when given an opportunity.
Vargas has a major league career batting line of .252/.311/.437 with 35 homers and 116 RBI in 783 at bats. He has struck out 251 times, opposed to 65 walks. His .748 OPS and 102 OPS+ in four major league seasons show that the potential is there. With Wil Myers entrenched at first, Vargas would probably just be a luxury. But if the Padres are going to kick the tires on Eric Hosmer, why not check out a potentially undervalued commodity.
The Twins have the minor league depth to pay the asking price. They have many young shortstops within the organization. Are the Padres interested in Nick Gordon as a shortstop option? If they are, the two sides could iron something out. Gordon for Hand makes a lot of sense. If the Twins are reluctant to part with their young infielder, then a group of prospects could also be enticing to the Padres. There is potential to send Brad Hand back home to Minnesota, but if the Twins get stingy, the Padres and A.J. Preller have plenty of other options around the league. Hand is a hot commodity.