Brach OK with restructured contract

Updated deal prompted by reliever's bout of mononucleosis; Hendricks works on two-seamer, changeup in second spring start

March 5th, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- is concentrating on putting himself in position to be ready to join the Cubs' Opening Day bullpen. The reliever is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday, marking an important step in meeting that goal.

That is all well and good, but Brach admits that he was not thrilled at first about restructuring his free-agent contract with the Cubs shortly before Spring Training began. An ill-timed bout with mononucleosis -- detected during blood tests that were part of his physical with Chicago -- led to the team reworking the terms of the pact, which is for one season with an option for 2020.

Prior to Brach reporting to Arizona, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called the reliever to discuss the team's reasoning.

"The first thing he said was he apologized for getting the relationship off to a bad start," Brach said on Tuesday morning. "I just appreciated the honestly, really. It's kind of hard to find sometimes from people in the game. It was just unfortunate timing. It was one of those things where I can get over it or I can sit here and complain about it. There's really nothing to complain about.

"It's done with. I'm here. I signed. I'm playing Major League Baseball and playing for the Cubs, who have a chance to win the World Series. So, at the end of the day, I can't really sit here and complain. It was unfortunate. Was I pissed? Yeah, I was pissed at the time -- I think anybody would be when something like that happens. But, it's done with, it's over and I'm just ready to play now."

Brach's new contract includes a base salary of $1.65 million with a $350,000 bonus available after spending one day on the active 25-man roster. Another $1 million can be earned via time on the active roster ($500,000 for 120 days and $500,000 for 150 days). Then, Brach's deal has a $5 million club option for '20. If the team does not pick that up, he can exercise a $1.35 million player option or take a $100,000 buyout and elect free agency.

The original contract included a $3 million salary for '19 and $4.35 million guaranteed (via a buyout). Now, he can earn $4.35 million by hitting all the bonuses in '19 and picking up the player option for '20. The new contract has a maximum potential value of $8 million, which is under the original reported max value of $9.5 million.

Brach, 32, originally agreed to a deal on Jan. 24, but fell ill and the Cubs did not officially announce his signing until Feb. 11. The right-hander lost 10 pounds while dealing with the illness, but has gone through a normal throwing progression in camp and said that he is healthy now. Last year, Brach had a 3.59 ERA in 69 outings between the Orioles and Braves.

"It was not fun," Brach said. "It kind of knocked me out there for a couple weeks, but I feel good now. It was just one of those things. I'm glad it's done and now it's in the past."

Hendricks takes next step
The goals of a pitcher can change with each outing. In his Cactus League debut last week, Cubs right-hander focused on his curveball. In a 9-2 loss to the Angels on Tuesday afternoon, Hendricks' objective was to hone his two-seam fastball and changeup.

"That was the difference today," Hendricks said. "Willy [Contreras] and I just wanted to lock those in, especially [because in] my first inning, my sinker was kind of flat. It was over the plate, but it just didn't really have good depth on it. But, second inning on, that was kind of the focus. We started to get really good action on it, bottom of the zone."

Overall, Hendricks worked 2 1/3 innings, in which he struck out four, scattered three singles and issued one walk. Two runs were credited to Hendricks' pitching line, but they came after his exit via a three-run home run by Mike Trout against Cubs Minor Leaguer Mario Meza.

"We did everything we really needed to do today," Hendricks said. "And I think throwing in the curveball more the next couple starts, for sure, will be the focus."

Worth noting
• Reliever , who projects to be the main closer while Brandon Morrow (right elbow) is sidelined in April, is slated to make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday against the Royals. Over the past five seasons combined, Strop has turned in a 2.61 ERA with 10.1 strikeouts per nine and an average of 65 appearances per year.

"He doesn't get near the due that he is due," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "This is one of the most consistent relief pitchers in baseball -- baseball -- over the last four or five years. You can pretty much count on appearances, what the ERA's going to look like, hits per innings pitched, strikeouts, walks. If you need a save, he's going to get it for you, too."

• Maddon does not have a primary second baseman in mind for the first month, while Javier Baez is at shortstop and Addison Russell (restricted list) finishes out his 40-game suspension. Ben Zobrist, Daniel Descalso, Ian Happ and David Bote could all be mixed and matched at that position.

"Start writing the names down and start moving them around. It's not that easy," Maddon said. "There's a lot going on there. There are a lot. So, I haven't really tried to nail it down."

Up next
Left-hander is scheduled to start for the Cubs on Wednesday, when Chicago hosts the Royals in a 2:05 p.m. CT Cactus League tilt at Sloan Park. Quintana spun two shutout innings against the D-backs on Friday in his spring debut. Kansas City will hand righty Heath Fillmyer the ball in Mesa.