A Cubs Transaction! A New Reliever! Dreams Can Happen! Cubs Sign Righty Brad Brach (UPDATES)

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A Cubs Transaction! A New Reliever! Dreams Can Happen! Cubs Sign Righty Brad Brach (UPDATES)

Chicago Cubs


The Chicago Cubs may not have *many* needs on the roster right now, but the bullpen sure could use some additional quality depth. And the Cubs may not have *a ton* of financial flexibility right now, but the reliever market has been so robust and picked over that there simply had to be some useful, affordable options out there.

The one we talked about last night was righty Brad Brach, and what do you know:

That’s about the range you would expect a guy like Brach, 32, to get in this market, and he currently projects to slot into middle relief for the Cubs right out of the gate. (SEE UPDATE on contract below.)

A formerly very good later-inning reliever with the Orioles, Brach came up in rumors last year as a potential trade target for the Cubs, and then again earlier this offseason as a possible target. Although he was *excellent* in 2015 and 2016, he’s regressed to merely “OK, fine, passable” the last couple years. Concerningly, every peripheral you’d want to monitor took a big step back for him last year with the exception of his groundball rate, which is not elite in any case (46.0%). The results were still pretty good (his 3.59 ERA was about 16% better than league average), but you just worry about the trends as he heads toward his mid-30s.

One thing to hang your hat on? After escaping Baltimore at midseason, Brach got a heckuva lot better with the Braves, looking like his formerly excellent self: 1.52 ERA, 3.12 FIP over 23.2 innings, with a 21.2% K rate, an 8.7% BB rate, and a really nice 22.0% soft contact rate.

More on Brach and how he works into the Cubs’ bullpen mix soon. For now, he joins this group on the 40-man roster, with Brandon Morrow slated to start the season on the shelf:

  • Pedro Strop (33, season ended with a hamstring injury)
  • Carl Edwards Jr. (27, erratic season in performance, had a shoulder injury and a forearm injury)
  • Steve Cishek (32, wore down late in the year after heavy usage)
  • Mike Montgomery (29, might be needed in the rotation, was quietly fairly poor as a reliever last year)
  • Brandon Kintzler (34, was terrible with the Cubs, is an aging high-contact pitcher)
  • Tyler Chatwood (29, lost all semblance of control last year)
  • Brian Duensing (35, was terrible and injured last year)
  • Randy Rosario (24, scary peripherals all year)
  • Kyle Ryan (27, was good at AAA last year but did not earn call-up)
  • Dillon Maples (26, so much talent but hasn’t shown big league command)
  • James Norwood (25, good stuff but not established)
  • Rowan Wick (26, decent minor league production but not established)

UPDATE: Looks like the Cubs are getting a team option for 2020 as well:

We’ll see what the option is, but on paper, if you’re comparing this to the two-year, $8 million deal Jesse Chavez got from the Rangers to walk away from the Cubs … well … I love what Chavez did in his half-year with the Cubs, but it’s hard for me to say this was a whiff by the Cubs. I think I like Brach’s deal a little better, and I think their projected performance is likely to be pretty close in 2019.

UPDATE 2: Other reports out there have the 2020 option as mutual, which means both sides would have to want to exercise it for it to go through. Most folks say that makes it meaningless – since they could just sign a new contract if they both agree anyway – but that’s not the case. The reason you do mutual options is to shift around the timing/amount of the buyout. For example, player decides his half of the mutual option first, and if he says no, then he doesn’t get the buyout. We’ll see what the actual final structure is.

UPDATE 3: The guarantee for Brach is a bit more than $3 million, and what happens in 2020 depends on what each side wants to do:

That suggests the buyout on the Cubs’ option for 2020 is $1.35 million, but Brach only gets it if they decline their option and he decides to walk away. And if Brach instead decides he wants to stay, it might wind up something like $6 million total over two years.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.