The Mets have claimed left-handed reliever Brad Hand off waivers from the Blue Jays, reports MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter thread). The Jays designated Hand for assignment earlier this week. Because he’s been acquired after Aug. 31, Hand would be ineligible for the Mets’ playoff roster, should the team qualify.
It proved to be a short stay in Toronto for Hand, who was acquired in a July 29th deal that sent catcher Riley Adams from Toronto to Washington. Hand had been in something of a slump with the Nats after a strong three-month start to the season and ultimately wasn’t able to turn the tide following a change of scenery. In 8 2/3 innings with the Jays, Hand yielded 10 runs (seven earned) on 13 hits and three walks with five strikeouts. Of those 13 knocks, three of them left the yard.
Hand is playing the season on a one-year, $10.5MM deal he signed with the Nationals in free agency. He’s still owed $1.75MM of that sum through season’s end, and by claiming him off waivers rather than letting him reach free agency and then attempting to sign him, the Mets are taking on the remainder of that salary.
Notably, the Mets had interest in Hand dating all the way back to the early stages of the 2020-21 offseason. Team president Sandy Alderson has gone on record to state that the team might have claimed Hand when the Indians placed him on waivers at the end of the 2020 campaign (in an effort to spare themselves the $1MM buyout on his $10MM club option). However, with the team’s ownership change not yet finalized, the Mets weren’t in a position to claim an eight-figure salary. Later in free agency, the Mets were reported to have made an offer similar to the $10.5MM deal Hand accepted from the division-rival Nationals.
That could have turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Mets. Even setting aside Hand’s recent struggles, the Mets’ alternate course of action saw the team instead turn to sign southpaw Aaron Loup, who has pitched to a stellar 1.20 ERA through 45 innings while playing on a one-year, $3MM deal.
The Mets now have both lefties, and they’ll hope for a rebound for Hand. It’d likely be expecting too much to seek a return to his halcyon days with the Padres, when he pitched to a 2.62 ERA with a 33 percent strikeout rate in 240 1/3 innings from 2016-18. However, Hand pitched to a mid-2.00s ERA with the Nats up through the season’s first few months — albeit with a greatly diminished 23 percent strikeout rate and much more questionable marks from fielding-independent metrics than during his San Diego peak.
There’s not much risk for the Mets in claiming Hand, other than being out a bit of money for a player who has been struggling immensely in recent weeks. If Hand can return to form, he can help fuel an improbable postseason push and perhaps set himself up more nicely for his forthcoming return to the free-agent market. If the struggles persist, the Mets were already a long shot for the playoffs anyhow. They’re five games out of the division lead and five and a half back in the Wild Card hunt, but team president Sandy Alderson is still willing to make some moves and Cohen is still willing to spend some money to try to close that gap.