2024 Cubs Free Agent Target: Brad Hand
Bill Streicher - USA Today Sports

2024 Cubs Free Agent Target: Brad Hand

by - Senior Writer -

With Spring Training set to begin in less than 10 days, it's safe to say the Cubs may be done making any major moves apart from Cody Bellinger, should that happen. That means the current roster as it stands today will be what this team takes into Spring, and like it or not, they have an excellent chance to win their division with the team they have.

That may not sit well with most fans as the NL Central could be better, and many feel the Cubs have wasted an offseason given the moves they have made and the lack of moves they have missed out on. Still, the Cubs may add to their roster once Spring is officially underway, as some great free-agent options remain.

If the Cubs do add during the early part of the Spring, look for them to bring in more bullpen options, as the Cubs still need to figure out a plan for their pen. One of the plans is adding a lefty, as that is the one area of need for this team. A name that not many people have talked about and, if you ask me, have forgotten about is a name the Cubs need to consider as left-hander Brad Hand remains a free agent.

Hand is a long-time veteran who has been a high-leverage reliever for most of his career and was linked to the Cubs during the trade deadline last season before he chose to go elsewhere. He would be the perfect addition to Craig Counsell's pen, giving him more late-inning flexibility to pair with Hector Neris and the rest of the Cubs back end.

Hand had a rough go of things in 2023, as he appeared in 60 games and posted a 5-3 record with a 5.50 ERA. He walked 22 and struck out 53, but things went South after getting traded to Atlanta from Colorado. Surprisingly, Hand held his own with the Rockies as his ERA was in the mid 4's over 40 games before balooning to 7.50 in 20 games with the Braves. That is a major concern, but you have to look at his overall body of work to grasp how good Hand has been.

Going back to 2011, when he broke into the league, Hand has pitched in 579 games, with all but 43 coming in a relief role. He has gone 40-55 across those games with a 3.75 ERA, but as a reliever, his ERA is closer to 3.20, while he is right around .500 as a relief pitcher. You then look at what Hand has done in the back half of the bullpen, as he has close to 200 holds in his career to go with 132 career saves. That includes seven seasons with at least 20 saves, including a career-high 34 saves in 2019 as a member of the Guardians.

About to enter his age 34 season, Hand is what you would call a journeyman, and a successful one at that, as he has pitched for nine teams so far in his career. His next team would make 10 unless he returns to a team he has pitched with before. While his age and season last year are a concern, Hand is a three-time all-star with no problem filling whatever role he is asked to do in the bullpen.

Like last season, Hand remains a free agent heading into Spring, as he signed with the Colorado Rockies six days before pitchers and catchers started. Hand is in a similar spot this season, whether by design or not, so expect him to sign with someone sooner rather than later. Given his recent struggles and age, Hand isn't a top priority like he once was, and many question whether or not he will kick the tires on him.

However, adding him could create an opportunity as this could be a low-risk, high-reward type of signing. Armed with a fastball in the 92-94 MPH range, Hand thrives off of working the corners instead of blowing hitters away. He pairs his 83 MPH slider with that heater, as that pitch happens to be his strikeout pitch among the two.

Adding Hand this late in the free agent process would not only come cheap, but you could sign him to a minor league deal and give him a Spring Training invite to compete for a spot. The Cubs have been known to do this in the past, and with Hand, you have to have more confidence in him, showing he can still pitch at a solid level.

Should the Cubs add him and he doesn't pan out, it would cost them next to nothing, so that alone makes it a risk worth taking. Should he come into Spring and prove he has something left, the Cubs would've gotten a reliable left-hander on the cheap who would instantly make this pen better.

If Hand can reignite his career with the Cubs, it could give them an interesting option from the left side. Hand has a unique delivery that can catch batters off guard. Put him in their pitching lab, and you could see the best version of Hand since the 2019 season when he was one of the more coveted relievers on the market.

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