A week ago, reports suggested Brad Hand was headed to the Mets. But instead, their pursuit of Hand was thwarted by a familiar foe—the Washington Nationals. The left-hander will reportedly pitch in the nation’s capital after signing a one-year, $10.5-million contract with New York’s NL East rival. Along with the Mets and Nationals, the Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Dodgers and White Sox were also in the mix for Hand, a three-time All-Star who had spent his previous three seasons in Cleveland.
As noted by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Hand saw his velocity dip last season, averaging a pedestrian 91.4 mph on his heater compared to 92.7 in 2019 and 93.6 the year prior. But even with his fastball not as potent as in previous years, Hand was still among the game’s sharpest late-inning arms last season, leading the majors with 16 saves. He also posted career-bests in both ERA (2.05) and opponent average (.169). The 30-year-old hasn’t blown a regular-season save since August of 2019.
Known for his lights-out slider, Hand should be a substantial improvement on Washington’s previous closer, Daniel Hudson, who converted just 10-of-15 saves last season while struggling to a dismal 6.10 ERA. Considered somewhat of a late bloomer, the former starter didn’t achieve stardom until his permanent move to the bullpen in 2016. For his career, Hand holds a lifetime 26-43 record with a 3.65 ERA and 9.23 K/9 across 396 major-league appearances (608 2/3 innings) including 43 starts for the Marlins, Padres and Indians. Over that span, Hand has held left-handers to a miserable .187 average with 216 strikeouts in 674 at-bats.
Hand would have been a nice get for the Mets, who have weathered their share of bullpen woes in recent years (4.60 ERA, seven blown saves in 2020). With Hand off to Washington, New York could look to reunite with Justin Wilson (our own insider Jon Heyman has already alluded to that possibility), who registered a 3.66 ERA with 10 holds in a setup/lefty specialist role for the Mets last season.