Major League Baseball's free-agent market won't open until the evening of Sunday, Nov. 1, but it appears that this year's class will unexpectedly include a pair of former All-Star closers. On Thursday, the Houston Astros and Cleveland placed Roberto Osuna and Brad Hand on outright waivers. Should they both clear, they'll reach the open market a year earlier than scheduled.
While Osuna and Hand have that much in common, their situations are little alike otherwise.
Osuna, who will turn 26 next February, was limited to just four appearances this season because of elbow woes. He's so far been able to avoid Tommy John surgery, though it's unclear if he'll remain as lucky heading forward. Osuna was projected to make $10 million in his final year of arbitration; clearly the Astros were unwilling to place a bet that large on him being healthy.
Osuna has a career 2.74 ERA and 6.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio along with 155 saves. In a vacuum, those marks would make him an attractive target for teams seeking relief help. In Osuna's case, his production is irrelevant compared to his 2018 domestic violence arrest. He was not charged because the victim, the mother of his child, declined to return to Canada to pursue the case. Former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow saw Osuna as an arbitrage opportunity when he traded for him in July 2018; there's no telling if other teams will be as craven this winter.
Teams who want late-inning help should instead set their sights on Hand.
Hand, 31 next March, set new career-highs in ERA+ (226) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.25) during the abbreviated season. Cleveland nonetheless deemed him to be unworthy of exercising their $10 million club option, suggesting their ownership group will force them to cut payroll.
There is some reason to doubt Hand's ability to maintain that level of production heading forward: he doesn't throw as hard as he used to, and his pitches didn't generate as many whiffs as normal this season. Still, it's hard to argue with his overall numbers, or his track record as an established, trustworthy high-leverage arm.
Hand, then, figures to have numerous suitors, ranging from the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Angels to the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, depending on how attached he is to the ninth inning.