The Cleveland Indians have needed bullpen help all season. They got it on Thursday, as Cleveland acquired San Diego Padres relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber in exchange for catching prospect Francisco Mejia, the teams announced.
Hand is a smart addition for Cleveland for a number of reasons, beginning with the fact he's turned into one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball. Since 2016, he's compiled a 2.66 ERA and 3.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Add in how Hand is signed through at least the 2020 season for a total of about $17 million (plus a club option that would pay him $10 million for 2021), and he's a potential long-term fit -- that's nifty given that Cleveland stands to lose both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen at season's end.
Cimber should also be a member of future Cleveland bullpens. Though he wasn't highly regarded entering the season, the submariner has posted a 3.17 ERA (127 ERA+) and 5.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 48 innings. He's in his rookie season, meaning he can't qualify for free agency for another five seasons. Given that Cimber will turn 28 in August, Cleveland is likely to get his best years.
The cost for present and future relief help is Mejia, who is widely regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball. Keith Law ranked him fifth on his midseason top-50 list, noting he should be a regular at catcher due to his arm, receiving skills, and bat. Baseball Prospectus had Mejia at eighth, noting his frame may not hold up behind the plate. So far this season, Mejia has hit .279/.328/.426 in Triple-A.
That's a big price to pay, but Cleveland is getting multiple years of control over both Hand and Cimber. Yan Gomes, who is under contract through at least the 2019 season, also deserves credit for this deal -- his bounce back undoubtedly helped make it easier for Cleveland to part with Mejia. Beyond that, this is a team who needed to close the gap between itself and the other super powers in the American League. Considering that Cleveland ended the first half with the second-highest bullpen ERA in baseball, this was perhaps the easiest way to do that.