For a team that has a glaring hole in the bullpen, it was disappointing to see the first domino fall in the reliever market. Earlier tonight, Aaron Loup reached a two-year deal worth $17 million with the Angels.
Coming off a career season, $7.5 million a year is a sizable raise for Loup. He spent last season with the Mets, going 6-0, with a 0.95 ERA, 57 strikeouts, and a 2.45 FIP in 56 2/3 innings. For the Angels, this move comes on the heels of signing Noah Syndergaard in an attempt to bolster their pitching.
Despite having Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Shohei Ohtani, David Fletcher, and Anthony Rendon leading the offense, the Angels have been thwarted year after year by their pitching. It seems the Angels have had enough and are finally fixing their issues.
The Nationals should take note because they are in a similar position. Instead of attempting to fix the issue, they decided to wait it out.
For what feels like an eternity, the Nationals Achilles heel has been their bullpen, leading to multiple early playoff exits. This past year was no exception, with the bullpen finishing 28th in LOB% (67.7%), and 29th in ERA (5.08), FIP (4.86), and fWAR (-0.2).
With the Mets, Loup was used primarily as a lefty specialist and setup man, recording 17 holds. He was used sparingly in the closer role, with zero success going 0-4 in save opportunities. Expect Loup to be used the same way in LA.
Where Loup would have drastically helped the Nats is preventing hard contact. Opponents only barreled up the ball against him 2.1% of the time and he only allowed one homer. To put it in perspective, Washington’s bullpen ranked 28th in barrel% (8.9%) and 25th in hard-hit percentage (39.8%).
Washington is lacking a go-to lefty, with last year’s Brad Hand experiment falling short of expectations. Loup was the best lefty available and now Washington will have to turn their attention to Tony Watson, Brooks Raley, and Andrew Chafin.