This isn't surprising, of course. The Padres are in the middle of a massive rebuild, and we all expected them to be among baseball's worst teams in 2017. And with the trade deadline now two weeks and two days away, San Diego figures to be the center of attention. They're clear sellers and have some interesting pieces to offer.
Chief among them is left-handed reliever Brad Hand, . The 27-year-old has a 2.30 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 47 innings this season. He's been lights out since coming over from the Marlins on a waiver claim last spring. Half the league has interest in Hand, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Sources say about 15 teams have expressed at least casual interest in Hand, but as the Padres opened the second half Friday, no agreement — involving Hand or anyone else — appeared imminent.
"Last year, we obviously started earlier in terms of moving pieces," general manager A.J. Preller said. "I think it's hard to predict exactly how the timeframe's going to play out."
I'm actually surprised more teams aren't showing interest in Hand. There's always room in the bullpen for an excellent left-hander, plus Hand won't be a free agent for another two years, so he's someone a rebuilding team could acquire with an eye on the future. I imagine every contending team has asked about Hand by now. The Padres are poised to benefit from a bidding war before the deadline.
What, exactly, will it take to pry Hand from the Padres? The bullpen trade market has been reshaped over the last 20 months or so. Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman were traded for monster packages at the deadline last year, and while Hand isn't quite as good as those guys, even lesser relievers like Ken Giles and Will Smith fetched a big return. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported last month San Diego wants a "Will Smith-type return" for Hand.
Now word comes out they want a Giles-esque return.
Other teams say that for now, the Padres are looking for a return on lefty Brad Hand similar to what the Phillies got for Ken Giles.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 15, 2017
Smith was traded from the Brewers to the Giants for a consensus top-50 prospect (righty Phil Bickford) and a young big-leaguer (catcher Andrew Susac). That trade hasn't really worked out for anyone so far. Smith blew out his elbow this spring and needed Tommy John surgery. Bickford has not pitched this year due to a drug suspension and Susac is hitting .191/.286/.389 in Triple-A.
The Giles trade was a massive blockbuster. The Phillies received five players from the Astros for Giles, including young hard-thrower Vince Velasquez and former No. 1 pick Mark Appel, whose stock had dropped since the draft. Righty Thomas Eshelman, who has a 1.96 ERA in 78 Triple-A innings this year, has emerged as the second-best piece in that trade.
Point is, the Padres want a big return for Hand, as they should. He's the best reliever on the trade market right now regardless of handedness, and there are no shortage of teams looking for bullpen help. The Smith and Giles (and Miller and Chapman) trades suggest San Diego can ask for a top-50ish prospect plus a young big-leaguer and maybe even some other pieces as well.
Will any team actually pay that price? My guess is yes, absolutely. Half the league wants this guy, and it only takes only takes one team to step up with a big offer. The Padres are in great position to turn a spring 2016 waiver claim into a monster trade package at the 2017 trade deadline. That's the kind of move rebuilding clubs dream about.