After an uncharacteristically mediocre first half with the Orioles in 2018, the 6’6″ righty appeared to right the ship in posting a 1.52 ERA with Atlanta down the stretch. The Cubs certainly hoped so when they guaranteed Brach $4.35MM this offseason, but with a 6.13 ERA through 42 games and newcomers David Phelps and Derek Holland taking roster spots, the Northsiders no longer had space for the 33-year-old former 42nd rounder.
He could have remained under contract for a lesser salary in 2020 due to a dual option, but Brach’s future is now up in the air. His track record should land him an opportunity to help a contender somewhere – but it might not happen this week. With more than five years of service time, Brach will have the right to refuse a minor league assignment and elect free agency, at which point he would be available on the cheap while the Cubs continue to foot the bill for most of his remaining 2019 money.
There is cause to believe in Brach’s future utility. A high-than-normal .375 BABIP points to some poor luck, born out in fielding independent metrics (4.13 FIP, 4.88 xFIP). Baseball-reference WAR pegs Brach as a negative contributor for the Cubs (-0.4 bWAR), but by measure of fWAR, which uses FIP instead of ERA, Brach should still be capable of adding value down the stretch (0.4 fWAR). Lowering his walk rate from 15.3 BB% closer to his career average of 10.5 BB% would certainly help.
Hamels will start today against Gio Gonzalez and the Brewers in a matchup of recently-activated veteran lefties. Hamels is 6-3 on the year with a 2.98 ERA (3.59 FIP), but his last start came at Great American Ballpark against the Reds a little more than a month ago. Gonzalez makes his third start since being activated from the disabled list – his second straight outing against the Cubs.