The Braves announced that they have declined their end of Brad Hand’s $7MM mutual option for the 2024 season. Hand will instead receive a $500K buyout. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Justin Toscano reported earlier today that the Braves were expected to pass Hand’s mutual option, so the 33-year-old southpaw will again return to the open market.
There wasn’t much suspense behind the decision, as Hand struggled to a 7.50 ERA over 18 innings after coming to Atlanta from Colorado at the trade deadline. Advanced metrics (such as a 49.6% strand rate) indicate that Hand was quite unlucky to post that 7.50 ERA, yet the Braves weren’t willing to take the $6.5MM bet that Hand would fare better in 2024.
Hand signed a one-year, $2MM deal with the Rockies last winter that initially contained a club option for 2024, but that club option became a mutual option once Hand was traded. It was essentially a technicality, as mutual options are rarely picked up by both sides anyway. Over the full 2023 campaign, Hand had a 5.53 ERA over 53 2/3 innings with Colorado and Atlanta, with a below average 9.3% walk rate. While still dominant against left-handed batters, Hand was hit hard by righty swingers this season, running contrary to his normally solid career splits.
Despite those uninspiring numbers, Hand’s 25% strikeout rate and above-average hard-contact metrics are perhaps more reflective of his actual quality during the 2023 season, as his 3.87 SIERA was well below his 5.53 ERA. This will be the case that Hand’s representatives will present to other teams in free agency, though it would be a surprise to see the left-hander get anything more than one guaranteed year.
Entering his age-34 season, Hand has 13 MLB seasons and three All-Star appearances under his belt, though his days as a closer are likely over. With a 2.89 ERA from 2016-22, Hand has a strong track record of success, and getting away from Coors Field might hint at better bottom-line results next year.