From leading the American League in saves in 2020, to getting designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays, a month after they traded for him at the deadline this year, relief pitcher Brad Hand has fallen pretty far from grace this season.
As a once highly touted closer on the free agent market, Hand ultimately chose to sign a one-year, $10.5 million deal with the Washington Nationals over the Mets last winter.
He has since struggled immensely, which led to the Blue Jays' decision to jettison him from their roster in late-August.
However, the Mets picked up Hand off the scrap heap, and he will be making his debut against his former team in the Nationals this weekend.
It is no secret that Hand has been abysmal this season, posting a 4.21 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 52 appearances between D.C. and Toronto.
However, the Mets have already taken a look at Hand's tendencies this year, and are more focused on what he can bring to the table, as opposed to the rough campaign he has endured.
"Our pitching coaches and pitching analysts will have conversations with Brad to present some things from their view," said Mets manager Luis Rojas prior to the Mets-Nationals series opener in D.C. this weekend. "I personally connected with him. I think he brings a lot of value here."
Although Hand would be ineligible to be on the postseason roster, if the Mets qualify, given that he was signed after the Aug. 31 deadline, the Mets still think he can help get them to October given his past resume of success.
"This is a guy who has been one of the best closers in baseball in the last couple of years and for us it is a luxury that he is here and can pitch in another inning other than the ninth for us and be another weapon as a lefty, like "Loupy" (Aaron Loup) has been."
"We are aware of the recent struggles. I think it has been a mix of things like mistakes in the zone," said Rojas. "Probably a pitch he wouldn't want to execute in the zone and it has been left out over the plate where a batter could take a good swing against him. His breaking ball has been elite, so there are some things that I'm sure that he is aware of and I'm sure our pitching coaches and analysts are going to present to him and are just going to work with him to make the adjustment here, but I feel pretty good that he is going to help us a lot."
Albeit the Nationals gutting their roster at the trade deadline, their two best hitters, Juan Soto (left) and Josh Bell (switch), are a dangerous duo in the middle of the order that Hand could be asked to get out in this series.
"We have some lineups that are coming our way that have important left-handers in the middle of their lineups like this one tonight (Nationals), and that's why I think he is going to play a big role," said Rojas. "He can come in earlier than Loupy has come in or even at the same spot that Loupy has come in or he can come in a little later against lefties like that. So, we are not looking at the struggles as much as the value that he has to help us moving forward."
Hand made three straight All-Star appearances from 2017-19. And after a strong shortened season in 2020, he has hit a wall this year. The Mets hope they can be the ones to help him revert back to his dominant form.
When asked why the Mets have struggled so much away from Citi Field this season, going 25-40 on the road, Rojas couldn't pinpoint the root cause.
While the team is 41-27 at home, and dreadful in other ballparks, Rojas says they are doing all they can to make sure the players are refreshed and ready to go after traveling.
"I feel that we prepare the same way here," said Rojas. "We've been very smart as far as giving the guys rest, especially with the trip like the one we had last night, where we got to the hotel at 3 a.m. I think the buses were lined up for 3:30 p.m. (today) to come to the ballpark so they could get the proper rest."
Regardless, Rojas knows the Mets must turn things around on the road in order to have a shot at cracking the postseason.
"I know we have a different record (away from home)," said Rojas. "We love the atmosphere at Citi Field, but we have to win these games on the road. That's why I don't want to say we play differently, I don't want to say there is a different approach on the road. It has just been more of a negative outcome here-and-there. We are looking forward to fixing that result-wise."
The Mets are in D.C. over Labor Day weekend for a five-game set with the lowly Nationals. And if there were ever an opportunity to flip the script away from home, it is in this series against a bottom-feeder in the NL East.
Smith Placed On Bereavement List
In order to make room for Brad Hand, the Mets placed Thursday night's hero, Dom Smith on the bereavement list.
According to Rojas, Smith had to tend to a family matter, regarding an occurrence from several weeks ago. Although Rojas could not share any details of the situation, he said this was the only time that Smith's family could get together, but he did not say when Smith will return.