2:55pm: Brach’s signing has been announced. The club designated righty Chris Flexen for assignment to create roster space.
1:13pm: The Mets have struck a deal with free agent righty Brad Brach, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). He’s said to be promised a $850K salary for the 2020 season (on top of the $500K he’s already owed by the Cubs). Brach is a client of Big League Management.
While the single-season earnings are relatively modest, the deal does include a $1.25MM player option that provides a backstop for the 33-year-old reliever. The price tag goes up based upon the number of games he appears in. ($125K at 20 games; $350K apiece upon his 30th, 35th, 40th, 50th, 60th, and 65th appearances.) There are incentives in both years of the contract, also tied to appearances (beginning with his 50th).
Brach has deep ties to the area, having grown up and played his college ball in New Jersey. It was seen as something of a homecoming when he landed in Queens in the middle of the 2019 season. As I noted in previewing the Mets’ offseason, it seemed sensible to imagine a reunion.
Both team and player obviously enjoyed the experience. For the second-straight season, Brach turned around suboptimal results after swapping jerseys in the middle of the year. In 39 2/3 innings with the Cubs, Brach limped to a 6.13 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and an alarming 6.4 BB/9. But with the Mets, he allowed six earned runs in 14 2/3 frames while posting a strong 15:3 K/BB ratio.
What changed? Brach was pumping his customary 95 mph for most of his tenure in Chicago and continued upon moving to New York. But there was some chatter that Brach had been tipping his changeup. And pitch-tracking software identified a major shift in usage in favor of a cut fastball. The new approach worked, at least in a short sample.
For the Mets, this move plugs one bullpen opening with a known quantity who has late-inning experience. Brach is now a few years removed from his best years in Baltimore, but this seems like a nice price tag for the veteran. The Mets will still need to look for creative ways of boosting their relief unit.