Chicago Cubs: Brad Brach’s restructured deal another bad look for MLB

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs reliever Brad Brach passed his physical with flying colors; except for being under the weather. His illness wound up costing him a great deal.

In arguably their biggest move of the offseason, the Chicago Cubs signed veteran setup man Brad Brach to a contract worth $3 million in 2019, and a mutual option for 2020 which included a $1.35 million buyout. In full, Brach was guaranteed $4.35 million, with a chance for the contract to reach $9.5 million if the Cubs were to exercise their option for 2020.

After a case of mononucleosis showed up on Brach’s physical, the deal was drastically changed. Brach is now on a $1.65 million contract for 2019, with incentives tied into the number of games Brach is on the active roster. The 2020 club option is set at $5 million, while next season’s player option is set at $1.35 million.

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Basically, Brach is looking at a two-year guarantee go from $4.35 million to $3 million if he picks up his player option-just for coming down with mono. If Brach hits all of his incentives and the club picks up his option, he can reach a maximum salary of $8 million, down from $9.5 million before the physical.

What this all means

Brach doesn’t seem overly concerned or blindsided by the reworked deal.

"“Everything’s fine,” Brach Said via The Athletic. (subscription required). “I had just a little bit of a viral infection. It was just kind of bad timing. Just kind of one of those things. When I was doing my physical, it came up, so it was adjusted from there.”"

Brach added that he thinks he’ll be ready for Opening Day. The 32-year-old has yet to throw during Cactus League action, but he appears to be on schedule. Brach handled the situation with class, and knows the business he’s been a part of for eight seasons. Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, but this situation seems distasteful.

The right-hander has been one of the best setup men in the league for many years now. His career 3.08 ERA deems him a huge asset to an admittedly thin Cubs bullpen. Brach will probably be asked to close games from time to time, as Joe Maddon has stated that he will use a revolving door method to fill the role while Brandon Morrow recovers from an elbow injury. Brach’s original deal was already a bargain and a product of a slow-moving free agency.

Further ramifications

The main question that I come away with from this story is about the Cubs’ budget. Is Theo Epstein so tied up with constraints sent down from ownership that he feels the need to nickel and dime a guy based on coming down with an illness? Apparently so.

Maybe the money saved from the Brach deal will allow the front office to fill other needs. The Cubs could still benefit from more bullpen help or a veteran backup catcher. Perhaps mononucleosis will have opened the door for another roster upgrade.

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The Brach deal could also serve as further evidence for the MLBPA, as they continue their rift with the owners. The current collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2021 season.