In the brave new world of baseball’s August free agency, the Mets remained active Thursday, signing righthanded reliever Brad Brach to a major-league contract.
The Cubs released Brach, 33, on Monday after he posted a 6.13 ERA and 1.77 WHIP in 43 games this season, a dramatic fall-off from his career-long track record of success. From 2012-18, he had a 3.05 ERA for the Padres, Orioles and Braves, and in 2016, he represented Baltimore in the All-Star Game.
For the Mets, whose list of reliable relievers begins and might end with setup man Seth Lugo, adding Brach is a low-risk flier as they try to continue their sudden playoff push. It’s a bet that their pitching-coach trio of Phil Regan, Jeremy Accardo and Ricky Bones can help Brach re-find his effective ways.
Although Brach signed for a base salary of $3 million with the Cubs in February, the Mets will be responsible for paying him only the prorated league minimum ($555,000).
Some of Brach’s peripheral statistics offer reason to believe in a rebound. For example, his fielding-independent pitching — like ERA, but based on homers, walks, hit by pitches and strikeouts — is 4.13, close to his career 3.72 mark.
Under Major League Baseball’s new trade rules — the August waiver process was erased, turning July 31 into a true trade deadline — teams have adopted a new August strategy: designating poorly performing veterans for assignment. If another club claims that player off waivers, his original team saves the rest of his salary. If no team claims him and the player is released — more likely — he is free to sign with another team (which saves his original team a small portion of his remaining salary).
That’s how former Mets infielder Asdrubal Cabrera switched from the Rangers to the Nationals recently. And it’s how Joe Panik, cut by the Giants and expected to officially become a free agent Friday, is allowed to join a new team for the homestretch. The Mets, who are without second baseman Robinson Cano (torn left hamstring) indefinitely, are contenders to sign Panik, a second baseman from Hopewell Junction and St. John’s University.
To make room for Brach (who grew up in Freehold, New Jersey, and attended Monmouth University) on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, respectively, the Mets sent lefthander Donnie Hart to Triple-A Syracuse and moved Brandon Nimmo to the 60-day injured list. Nimmo (bulging disc) already has been out more than 60 days, so that is a paper move and says nothing about a potential return.