NEW YORK -- With Brad Hand gone to the Nationals, the Mets have found a different left-hander for their bullpen.
The Mets agreed to a deal with free agent Aaron Loup this week, and the club announced the signing on Saturday. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the deal is for $3 million.
The deal gives the Mets the type of left-handed stalwart they were looking for. Loup, 33, posted a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings last season, striking out 22 batters while holding lefties to a .212/.278/.303 slash line. That’s an improvement over his career mark of a .621 OPS from left-handed hitters.
The only lefty relievers on the Mets’ 40-man roster were Daniel Zamora and Stephen Tarpley, both of whom possess checkered recent histories. The Mets also signed veteran specialist Jerry Blevins to a Minor League deal, inviting him to Spring Training. They have several additional pitchers who could come out of the bullpen if needed, including Joey Lucchesi and prospect Thomas Szapucki.
Given that backdrop, Loup offers the Mets a measure of stability. He owns a career 3.38 ERA over nine seasons with the Blue Jays, Phillies, Padres and Rays, relying on a four-pitch mix to neutralize both left-handed and right-handed batters.
The Mets’ most significant bullpen acquisition this winter was right-hander Trevor May, who signed a two-year, $15.5 million deal in November. May joined Edwin Díaz, Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances at the back of the bullpen, with Seth Lugo likely to pitch in relief as well. All of those pitchers are right-handed.
Earlier this month, the Mets were in talks with Hand, the top lefty available on the open market, but he instead signed with the Nationals for $10.5 million. Mets president Sandy Alderson said that if the team had made its ownership transition sooner, it might have claimed Hand off waivers from the Indians for $10 million. Instead, the Mets negotiated unsuccessfully with Hand in free agency, which forced them to look elsewhere for lefty help.
The Mets finished 18th in the Majors with a 4.60 bullpen ERA last season.