Hand, Mets talking, no deal yet (sources)

January 15th, 2021

NEW YORK -- The Mets were in talks with free-agent reliever this week, according to multiple sources, though the two sides have yet to approach a deal.

If the Mets are able to agree to terms with Hand, it would bring balance to a bullpen that, as currently constituted, skews right-handed. Hand has been one of the best lefties in baseball over the past five years with the Padres and Indians, posting a 2.70 ERA with 434 strikeouts in 320 innings. He has been a particularly difficult matchup against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .187/.258/.294 slash line over 10 big league seasons.

As such, Hand would give the Mets a bona fide lefty option in a bullpen that includes right-handers Edwin Díaz, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, Brad Brach and perhaps Seth Lugo. The only lefty relief candidates currently on the Mets’ 40-man roster are Daniel Zamora and Stephen Tarpley, both of whom have checkered performance histories, as well as prospect Thomas Szapucki. The Mets also signed veteran Jerry Blevins to a Minor League deal, and they could potentially look at Steven Matz as a relief option at some point.

None of them possess the immediate potential of Hand, a former second-round Draft pick of the Marlins who struggled as a starter before developing into a dominant reliever in San Diego.

Mets president Sandy Alderson has indicated that, had the team’s ownership change taken effect sooner, the club might have claimed Hand after the Indians placed him on outright waivers in October. Doing so would have allowed them to acquire Hand for a $10 million salary in 2021, rather than negotiate what could potentially be a multi-year deal. (The Indians, looking to shed salary, elected to pay Hand a $1 million buyout rather than bring him back next season.)

Instead, Hand became a free agent, and the Mets maintained their interest.

Other lefties on the open market include Sean Doolittle, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Aaron Loup, Jake McGee, Andrew Chafin and Oliver Pérez.