The Chicago Cubs addressed a glaring need on Thursday, signing right-handed reliever Brad Brach to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2020.
Well, it’s no Craig Kimbrel. But the Chicago Cubs improved their bullpen depth at long last, signing former Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves reliever Brad Brach to a one-year, $4.35 million deal with a mutual option on a second year.
Last season, Brach split time between the Orioles and Braves, pitching to a 3.59 ERA and 1.596 WHIP in 62 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander, who turns 33 in April, drastically improved his numbers in Atlanta, where he compiled a 1.52 ERA, 1.310 WHIP and 269 ERA+ across 23 2/3 frames.
He’ll likely slot in as that key middle-inning guy, bridging the gap from the starting rotation to the late-inning guys like Carl Edwards, Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop. After the Cubs were chastised early in the offseason for passing on Jesse Chavez (two-years, $8 million) – Theo Epstein nailed this move, giving Chicago a much-needed reliable presence in the pen.
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From 2013-2017, Brach racked up 319 2/3 innings out of the Baltimore bullpen, pitching to a 2.79 ERA, 3.51 FIP and 1.195 WHIP. This guy has been the epitome of consistency in recent years – which, at least in my mind, is exactly what the pen needed heading into 2019.
I’d personally still like to see the Cubs add another left-handed option before they break camp in Mesa. Right now, you’re heading into the season with a ton of righties (Morrow, Strop, Edwards, Brach, Brandon Kintzler, Tyler Chatwood and Steve Cishek). That doesn’t even take into account the plethora of young arms that appear likely to open the year with Triple-A Iowa.
As far as left-handers go, things appear far less stable. As long as Yu Darvish stays healthy, Mike Montgomery heads back to the bullpen, which should take some pressure of those late-inning guys – and provide a long-man – something the 2018 ballclub sorely lacked.
So you’ve got Montgomery paired up with the likes of Brian Duensing, who picked up right where he left off following a breakout 2017 campaign (68 appearances, 2.74 ERA, 3.38 K/BB ratio and 8.8 K/9) to open the season – then fell to pieces and was essentially unusable the rest of the year. And don’t forget Randy Rosario, who was a pleasant surprise last season, but whose peripherals aren’t quite as inviting as his overall numbers might suggest.
All told, this is a solid pick-up. It’s one of those moves that won’t garner many headlines outside of Chicago, but down the stretch, could prove to be the most important one Epstein makes this winter.