Should Have Signed: Aaron Loup
If there’s one glaring hole on the Mets’ roster going into this season, it’s the lack of a high-leverage left-handed reliever. Sure, they’ve brought in capable veterans like Chasen Shreve and Alex Claudio on minor league deals, but failing to retain their best reliever from a year ago might prove costly.
Aaron Loup certainly went above and beyond that billing in 2021. He didn’t just have a career year – he had perhaps the best season a Mets reliever has ever had, with an eye-popping 0.95 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 56 2/3 innings. Against left-handed hitters, Loup surrendered just two extra-base hits the entire year, holding them to a .167 batting average and .440 OPS in 93 plate appearances.
Yes, repeating a season like that is nearly impossible and surely means some degree of regression in 2022. And yes, he did get a large contract to join the Los Angeles Angels. And yes, history shows that performance from relievers can be volatile year to year.
But for Loup, it was clear he had put it all together with the Mets. He proved capable of delivering in high-leverage situations and did so in the biggest media market – something that not every player (even some of the greatest) can navigate.
Compounding the issue for the Mets is how much other teams in the division have improved – particularly from the left side of the plate. The Braves may have let Freddie Freeman go west, but they more than adequately replaced him with Matt Olson, a top-10 American League MVP candidate last year. The Phillies brought in Kyle Schwarber, who bludgeoned the Mets for nine home runs in 10 games last season, to pair with Bryce Harper. The Nationals may not contend this year, but they still have arguably the best young left-handed hitter in the game, Juan Soto.
The Mets must hope an internal candidate can replace even some of Loup’s lost production. Otherwise, there will be a clear need for a lefty reliever at the trade deadline in July.