CLEVELAND -- At the end of the 2020 season, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said the Indians weren’t sure what their payroll would look like for 2021, but he indicated the only way it would go was down. On Thursday, the team took its first steps to trimming its wages.
The Indians placed Brad Hand on outright waivers Thursday afternoon, according to a report by The Athletic. The Indians have not confirmed the move. The left-hander has a $10 million option for next season that would be unlikely to be picked up if he’d clear waivers. If a team does claim him, the Indians would not have to pay his $1 million buyout in order to part ways.
Will a team spend $10 million on a reliever? It’s difficult to predict what this offseason will look like and how aggressive teams can be after a year of financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hand has been an All-Star closer for Cleveland, but teams could wait until he officially becomes a free agent and try to sign him for a lower figure.
Cleveland had the choice to pick up Hand’s option and be able to trade him over the winter (like the club did with Corey Kluber last year), but the uncertainty may have been the driving force in assuring that the Tribe wouldn’t have to allow for that $10 million on next year’s payroll.
Hand’s numbers have been stellar since joining the Tribe at the 2018 Trade Deadline. The 30-year-old pitched to a 2.78 ERA in 111 outings with a 2.62 FIP and 154 strikeouts in 107 innings. In 2020, he went 16-for-16 in save opportunities before blowing a save in Game 2 of the American League Wild Card Series against the Yankees, leading to the Indians’ postseason elimination. But the fact that the Tribe is ready to move on from its closer shouldn’t come as a surprise to Indians fans.
In Cleveland’s quest to have its roster become younger and more affordable, James Karinchak has proven a worthy option for the closing role. The 25-year-old posted a 2.67 ERA in 27 appearances in 2020 with 53 strikeouts in 27 innings (a 17.7 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio). Now that the club will add the hard-throwing Emmanuel Clase to the bullpen mix after he missed the '20 season due to a suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, the Tribe likely had more confidence in its bullpen to be able to let Hand (and his $10 million salary) go before next season.