New York Mets are interested in the top left-handed reliever in the market

Forget the meltdown he had in Game 2 of the Wild Card series against the Yankees. Brad Hand is, arguably, the top left-handed reliever available in the market. As such, he has drawn interest from many clubs, and the last one to join the list are, of course, the New York Mets.

The Mets are seeking relief help since there is still some uncertainty regarding Seth Lugo’s role. The team brought elite righty Trevor May and lots of upside plays, but if they are able to secure Hand, the unit could be one of the best in the league on paper.

The Mets’ bullpen could really use a reliable lefty, since there aren’t many on the roster. According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Mets have shown interest in Hand, who became a free agent after the Cleveland Indians declined to pick up his $10 million option for 2021 in a clear cost-cutting move.

The Mets have competition

The southpaw has been linked with other top clubs since the Indians let him go. The Toronto Blue Jays (like the Mets, they have been associated with virtually every major free agent available) and the Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly interested.

Clubs are in on the lefty because of his excellent 2020 season (he had a brilliant 2.05 ERA, a 0.77 WHIP, and a 29/4 K/BB ratio over 22 innings while also leading all of MLB in saves with 16, with no blown opportunities) and the fact that he is still in the prime of his career, at 30 years old.

For the Mets, it makes all the sense in the world to pair Hand with top closer Edwin Diaz. If Lugo returns to relief duties, the team could have a fearsome foursome of Diaz, Hand, Lugo, and May.

Only time will tell if the New York Mets make a move and bring Hand into the fold. But as far as free agents go, he makes all the sense in the world.

New York Mets Best Relief Pitching Options on the Free Agent Market

New York Yankees, Justin Wilson

The New York Mets may not need extra bullpen help but the more,, the merrier. Like the starting pitching market, there is a clear-cut top guy in Liam Hendriks, but the Mets already have a dominant closer. What are the other strong, late-inning options for the Mets to bring in for the 2021 season?

1. Liam Hendriks 

Liam Hendriks is the best reliever in baseball over the last two seasons. In 99 games since 2019, he has a 1.79 ERA, 39 saves, and an astounding 13.1 K/9. Hendriks only allowed six home runs in that span of games and would undoubtedly make the Mets bullpen the best in baseball. He is well within the Mets budget, but Hendriks may not be as high on their list as George Springer or Trevor Bauer.

Adding Hendriks would create a three-headed monster with Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo. It allows the Mets to mix and match their bullpen, similarly to the Tampa Bay Rays. Pitchers are creatures of habit, but all three have shown versatility to pitch prior to the ninth inning.

2. Brad Hand

Moving to the bullpen was the greatest thing that ever happened to Brad Hand‘s career. Since 2016, Hand has a 2.70 ERA, 104 saves, and three All-Star appearances. Despite the Cleveland Indians attempt to save money, it was still a surprise for the team to waive him after the season.

The Mets bullpen is desperate for a left-handed reliever after Justin Wilson became a free agent and the Mets non-tendered Chasen Shreve. Hand would create a different breed of a three-headed monster in the bullpen with his ability to neutralize lefties. Left-handers have no success against Hand; they have hit well under .200 since Hand became a reliever. Hand would be the perfect neutralizer for NL East lefties Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper, and Juan Soto.

3. Alex Colome

Alex Colome is a more likely right-handed option for the Mets. The 32-year old veteran only allowed two earned runs in 22.1 innings pitched. Colome is as close to Mariano Rivera 2.0 as anyone can get. He only features a cutter and 4-seam fastball, ditching everything else.

Versatility is the name of the game for relievers this offseason and Colome fits the mold. He has 138 career saves but is likely an eighth inning reliever with Lugo. The Mets have a lot of hard throwing, swing and miss relievers; Colome is a good change of pace in comparison. He is a master of inducing weak contact due to his tremendous cutter. Hitters had a 3.1% barrel rate in 2020.

4. Justin Wilson

The market is a lot quieter on Justin Wilson than it would have been last offseason. Wilson would agree 2020 was not his finest season but had a 3.66 ERA in 23 games. He fits perfectly into any role the Mets have and even lefty/righty splits in his career. Wilson was a big part of the Mets resurgence in 2019 and is an underrated part of their bullpen.

5. Keone Kela

Keone Kela comes with plenty of injury and personality baggage which is a huge risk in New York. His bad clubhouse reputation is well documented but partnering with the culture with the Mets could benefit him. The lights out stuff is proven with a career 3.27 ERA and 11 K/9 but he ranks low due to injuries and past suspension. Kela is primed for a one year deal with an option for a second due if the risk pays off.

 

New York Yankees News/Rumors: The Yankees need a “Hand” in the bullpen, rebuilding necessary

The once best in baseball New York Yankees bullpen is no more. This past season with the departure of Tommy Kahnle to Tommy John surgery and the ineffectiveness of Adam Ottavino, the Yankees were left in a vulnerable spot. Manager Aaron Boone was left with undependable relievers near the end of games. Even Chad Green had one of his worst seasons, although still mostly reliable, and the once unhittable closer Aroldis Chapman became hittable.  Chapman gave up the winning run in the last three attempts to advance to a World Series.

For years the New York Yankee bullpen depended on fast ballers to get hitters out. But this year,, the different looks of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Dodgers lower cost pitchers showed that my no longer be the way to go. In the later part of the ’90s and the 2000s the Yankees had the luxury of Mariano Rivera to close the game. When “Mo” walked out of the bullpen,, and you heard “enter sandman,” for the most part,, you knew the game was over and that the Yankees would usually win.

Upon the exit of Rivera from baseball, the Yankees spent a lot of money; they brought David Robertson back, acquired Andrew Miller, got Tommy Kahnle and later Adam Ottavino. They spent this money because they knew that they didn’t have a starting staff going to go deep into games.  That was then,, and this is now, and the bullpen has lost its glamour. One bright spot in the pitching realm was Luis Cessa,, who had his best year but is mostly a low-leverage guy.

With the New York Yankees starting pitcher situation in more disarray than it has been in years, the Yankees will again need to strengthen its bullpen. This will be a challenge for new pitching coach Matt Blake. He has many arms to work within Jonathan Loaisiaga, Luis Avilan, Jonathan Holder, and Tyler lines. Then there’s the young developing arms of Clarke Schmidt, Miguel Yajare, Brook Kriske, and Nick Nelson to be worked with, hoping that one of them can become dependable arms.

With Deivi Garcia most likely becoming a starting pitcher at some point in the upcoming season, the Yankees will most likely have to add a veteran arm to the bullpen with Kahnle expected to miss part if not all of the 2021 season. The Rays, who have barely spent a dime on their bullpen. Instead, they thrive on diversity in their ‘pen: their relievers come from several different arm angles and have guys that range from crafty lefties to fireballing over-the-top righties. The Rays’ bullpen has someone to match up with everyone. They Yankees will try to find a way to deversify so that they can show that same type of surprise.

Looking outside the up and coming arms the Yankees may have to look at someone like Brad Hand a free agent from the Indians.  Hane over his 22.0 innings of work, Hand finished with the most saves (16) among all qualified relievers in the majors, producing a 2.05 ERA, 2.48 xERA, 1.37 FIP (third-lowest), 30 FIP- (third-lowest), 0.77 WHIP (sixth-lowest), 4.7% walk rate (11th-lowest), 33.7% strikeout rate (20th-highest), zero percent HR/FB rate (tied for league-best), and a 1.1 fWAR rating (tied for second-highest), according to FanGraphs.com.

Hand would be the excellent set up man for closer Aroldis Chapman and would challenge  Zack Britton for that set up man spot, but both would put the Yankees back in the great pullpen discussion.

Brad Hand is now a free agent; could the Yankees or Mets pounce?

A couple of days after the Cleveland Indians placed him on outright waivers, it was revealed that Brad Hand went unclaimed (reported by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman) and is now in the market, which is something that may catch the attention of both the New York Yankees and Mets.

“Not one team claimed Brad Hand for $10M. He was a top 3 finalist for AL reliever of the year with a 0.77 WHIP. and 16 saves. Time to revise free agent contract projections downward! (Hand is now a free agent after Indians then declined the $10M option and paid $1M buyout,)” Heyman tweeted.

The transaction was made to cut cost, as the Indians didn’t want to pay him the $10 million to return. They were hoping that some team would claim the stellar left-hander and be on the hook for the money, in which case Cleveland wouldn’t have to pay the $1 million buyout. But since nobody claimed Hand, they will need to provide the $1 million payment.

The Indians probably thought someone would claim Hand, given his strong track record of success and the fact that he was one of the top relievers in the American League this season. Sure, some fans may have his collapse against the New York Yankees in the Wild Card series in mind, but the fact remains that he’s an elite reliever.

Should the Yankees and Mets be interested?

For the Yankees, it comes down to the potential cost. I’ve been saying that they need to build their bullpen from within and develop their own pitchers, but part of putting together an excellent relief unit is targeting low-cost free agents.

It’s not likely that he comes in very cheap, but he probably won’t be getting $10 million, since nobody wanted him at that price.

Hand, who is still in his prime at 30, led the American League with 16 saves this year and had a 22/4 K/BB ratio with a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings.

As for the Mets, Hand makes for an excellent target. Steve Cohen is taking over ownership and while he may not be after the big free agents, adding an arm like Hand to the bullpen makes perfect sense for a roster that is just a couple of pieces away from contention.

Both the Yankees and Mets would benefit from having Hand in their bullpen. Will one of them make a move for him?