Nats’ first trade: Hand to Blue Jays for catching prospect

The first of several deals the Nationals are expected to make over the next 28 hours was finalized today when closer Brad Hand was traded to the Blue Jays for catching prospect Riley Adams.

The trade was announced by the Nats during the first inning of their game against the Phillies but apparently processed prior to first pitch, because outfielder Yadiel Hernandez was recalled from Triple-A Rochester and immediately placed on the active roster.

Hand was among the most likely of the Nationals’ veterans to be moved prior to Friday’s 4 p.m. deadline. The 31-year-old lefty is due to become a free agent at season’s end and was attractive to contending clubs seeking bullpen help, even with his recent struggles on the mound.

Thumbnail image for Hand-Delivers-Gray-BAL-Sidebar.jpgSigned by the Nats over the winter to a one-year, $10.5 million contract, Hand was at times automatic in the ninth inning: He converted 16 consecutive saves from mid-May through early July. But there were two notable stretches in which he struggled mightily, the first in early May and then over the last two weeks, when he blew three save opportunities and was charged with three losses.

The two most-recent blown saves (Sunday in Baltimore, Monday in Philadelphia) perhaps drove the final nail in the coffin for the Nationals’ waning postseason hopes and convinced general manager Mike Rizzo it was time to sell, not buy, at the July 30 trade deadline.

Hand did bounce back to save Tuesday night’s 6-4 win, but by then it was too late to change the club’s plan. He thus became Rizzo’s first move of what should be a frantic final day that could also see Max Scherzer, Daniel Hudson, Josh Harrison and perhaps Yan Gomes, Trea Turner or Kyle Schwarber dealt away as the Nationals attempt to rebuild a diminished farm system.

In that vein, the Nats will hope the acquisition of Adams helps fortify their catching corps, which has never produced a long-term starter from within the system.

The 25-year-old Adams made his major league debut for the Blue Jays last month and in 12 games went 3-for-28 with two doubles, two walks and 12 strikeouts. A third-round pick in 2017 from the University of San Diego, he was rated Toronto’s 17th-best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Adams is a physical presence behind the plate at 6-foot-4, 246 pounds, and was considered among the Blue Jays’ top power-hitting prospects. In four professional seasons, he owns a .262 batting average, .363 on-base percentage, .419 slugging percentage, 66 doubles, 28 homers and 146 RBIs.

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