After a season in which Anthony Misiewicz and Sean Doolittle duked it out for the primary lefty reliever role in the Mariners’ bullpen, and neither took significant ownership of the role, the Mariners need an upgrade heading into next season. Several options will be available on the free agency and trade market, but free agent Aaron Loup appears to be the most ideal match, by far.
Loup, 33, is coming off of a career-best season as a left-handed specialist with the New York Mets, posting a 6-0 record, 0.95 ERA, and 0.935 WHIP in 65 appearances. He features a fastball-cutter combo, while mixing in a slider and changeup on rare occasions. His fastball hovers around 92 mph, which isn’t necessarily overpowering, but his weighted runs above average on his fastball (where league average is 0) was an excellent 11.8 in 2021, according to FanGraphs.
The Mariners had one of the best bullpens in MLB last season, but adding Aaron Loup as a left-handed specialist could make it even better.
The Mariners’ 3.88 bullpen ERA in 2021 was good for 4th in the American League, and their 51 saves was tops in the AL. Without the performance of their relievers, the Mariners would not have come close to a 90-win season. However, with left-handed sluggers Matt Olson, Shohei Ohtani, and Yordan Alvarez all dwelling in the AL West, having an experienced left-handed specialist in the bullpen will be crucial for the Mariners as they hope to take a step forward.
Loup allowed a minuscule .167 BA and .226 OBP, and only one home run, to opposing left-handed hitters in 2021, while Anthony Misiewicz ceded a .261 BA and .303 OBP to lefties. The Mariners want to give the 27-year-old Misiewicz every opportunity to grow, but if they hope to contend next season, some youth development may need to be sacrificed for immediate performance.
While picking up Aaron Loup on a one-to-two-year deal this offseason might not light up the headlines, it would be a savvy move that could help boost the Mariners’ bullpen to even more unexpected success.