Free agent reliever would be key addition
Rosenthal claimed the pact will be for two seasons. Hand will be the Mets’ second high-profile relief signing this offseason, joining Trevor May to bolster a bullpen which has struggled of late.
Contrary reports have surfaced, however, and Rosenthal has walked back those initial claims. The Mets and Hand are apparently ‘engaged in discussions’, but the two parties are not close to a deal (yet).
The Mets bullpen was 15th in wins above average last season. Improving on that was a priority this offseason. They have also struggled to get left-handers out since the start of 2019. Mets relievers rank 27th in xFIP against lefties since the start of the 2019 campaign – they are 29th in walk rate in those matchups and 18th in strikeout rate. Signing a top-end left-handed reliever was a must. Hand would fill that void.
Hand, of course, is better than a lefty killer. He led MLB in saves last season. He’s got over 100 saves to his name, and he’ll likely get plenty of save opportunities if he signs with the Mets despite their other late-inning options.
Crucially, though, lefties cannot hit him. Left-handers have a .552 OPS against Hand in 749 plate appearances throughout his Major League career. He’s struck out over 34% of lefties he’s faced since the start of 2019 and walked just over 8%. That’s good for a freaky 1.77 FIP in such matchups.
A wipeout slider and a solid four-seamer are what Hand relies on. It has made him one of MLB’s best relievers over the last few seasons.
The sky is the limit for a bullpen featuring Hand, Edwin Diaz, May and Dellin Betances. While a deal might not be close just yet, the fact the Mets are pursuing Hand is a positive sign. It’s clear they are addressing one of their problem areas.