Padres relievers draw trade interest

It's not just Hand who is catching the eye of teams

Padres relievers draw trade interest

SAN DIEGO -- Brad Hand is one of the hottest names on the market ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline this year. But he's not the only Padres reliever drawing interest from other clubs.

Top to bottom, the bullpen in San Diego has been excellent over the past month. Other teams have taken note, upping their interest in fellow relievers Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter and Kirby Yates, while the market for Hand remains strong.

"It seems like most nights when we get into the fifth or sixth inning with the lead, we're giving [manager] Andy [Green] a really good chance to win the ballgame," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "The relievers have all pitched well, and scouts take note of that. Teams have definite interest. And it's not just a back-end guy or setup guys. We have some depth, and teams have hit us on that depth."

Preller didn't specify which arms were drawing the most attention, but noted, "We've been hit on for almost all the guys on the back-end, honestly."

Hand is the most obvious chip. He entering Sunday's finale against the Giants, he had a 2.25 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 48 innings. A portion of the baseball world views a Hand trade as inevitable, given that his value is probably at its peak. But the Padres are (understandably) setting a high asking price for their most coveted asset.

"We're going to listen," Preller said. "He's a guy where there's definitely a lot of interest. But from our standpoint, there's a lot of interest in keeping him here as well. He's a tremendous competitor, he's a good athlete, and he can take the ball every day."

Also playing a factor are the 2 1/2 arbitration years remaining on Hand's deal. In that regard, an expiring contract isn't forcing Preller's -- pardon the pun -- hand. The 27-year-old southpaw could still be dealt in the offseason.

The same holds true for most of the Padres' relief corps. Maurer won't be a free agent until after the 2019 season, Yates in '20 and Buchter in '21.

"It's important that you have these guys under control, and that'll factor into our decisions in the next couple weeks," Preller said.

Yates works out of trouble

Yates has been excellent since joining the Padres as a late-April waiver claim from the Angels. He's posted a 1.93 ERA and a strikeout and a half per inning. Buchter, meanwhile, has followed his breakout rookie season with an impressive 3.12 ERA.

Maurer might be the most interesting case of the bunch, given his poor ERA. But his peripheral numbers -- namely a 2.85 FIP and a 1.12 WHIP -- hint that he's pitched better than his 5.30 ERA would indicate. He's converted 14 straight save opportunities and has thrived since adding a few ticks to his slider velocity.

"He's always been a hard thrower, but we see the slider really playing," Preller said. "Teams are smart, they dig in and do their homework, and they see a guy that, in save situations ... has been really good. The ERA is a little deceiving right now. He's had a nice year, and other teams definitely recognize that."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.