Brad Brach, a New Jersey native who pitched well in his seven weeks with the Mets last season, is back.
The Mets re-signed the righthanded reliever to a one-year deal for $850,000 — plus a $1.25-million player option for 2021 — on Friday. That is the first of what is expected to be several moves to fortify a bullpen that was among the worst in the majors in 2019.
To make room for Brach on the 40-man roster, the Mets designated righthander Chris Flexen for assignment.
The Mets picked up Brach in August after he struggled with the Cubs and was cut by them. His numbers improved significantly, from a 6.13 ERA and 1.77 WHIP for Chicago to a 3.68 ERA and 1.23 WHIP for the Mets, and he openly enjoyed being a member of the team he rooted for while growing up.
Brach’s new contract is a low-risk bet that moving forward, he will be more like the pitcher he was with the Mets than the one he was with the Cubs. In nine seasons in the big leagues, he has a 3.33 ERA and 1.31 WHIP and represented the Orioles in the 2016 All-Star Game.
One of Brach’s career trends — being much more effective against righthanded hitters than lefthanded hitters — was magnified last season. Righties had a .211 batting average, .297 OBP and .278 slugging percentage against him; lefties had a .403/.500/.639 slash line.
Brach is just one piece of a Mets bullpen that still needs help, especially if Seth Lugo (2.70 ERA) moves to the rotation. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen has said that the Mets are betting on Edwin Diaz (5.59 ERA) and Jeurys Familia (5.70 ERA) bouncing back, and Justin Wilson (2.54 ERA) still is under contract.
With the winter meetings beginning Sunday in San Diego, relievers will be on the Mets’ agenda. Among the free-agent bullpen arms available: Dellin Betances, Blake Treinen, Sergio Romo, Steve Cishek, Joe Smith, David Phelps and Luis Avilan.