NEW YORK -- In a low-risk gamble to improve their bullpen, the Mets on Thursday signed veteran right-hander Brad Brach to a Major League deal. Brach, a Freehold, N.J., native and Monmouth University alumnus, was a Mets fan in his youth and even attended the 2015 World Series after the Orioles were eliminated earlier that season.
“[I] feel like the fit’s really good here and the opportunity is great,” Brach said before Friday’s game against the Nationals.
When asked what specifically stood out about the fit, his childhood fandom came up.
“Growing up a huge Mets fan, that helps," Brach said. "But I just think I can bring a big asset to this bullpen and I know they need a little bit of help. So that’s pretty much why I’m here."
He is not far removed from being one of baseball’s best relievers. An All-Star in 2016 with the Orioles, Brach posted a 3.05 ERA from 2012-18 with more than a strikeout per inning, pitching for the Padres, O’s and Braves. He appeared in three postseason games for Baltimore and two more last October for Atlanta.
But Brach struggled this year after signing a one-year deal with the Cubs, posting a 6.13 ERA in 42 games. The team released him on Monday, prompting Brach to draw immediate interest on the free-agent market. His peripherals -- 45 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings, most notably -- suggest a turnaround is possible.
“I didn’t locate very well there for a little bit [with the Cubs]," Brach said. "But really it comes down to two outings I had against Colorado ... went in a tailspin from there. I just couldn’t get myself out of a funk. ... I wasn’t pitching well, so there weren’t as many opportunities."
Asked specifically what went wrong, Brach didn’t have anything to pinpoint beyond the location issues.
“I wish I knew," he said. "Sometimes it’s just baseball. When I talked to Joe [Maddon] in my exit meeting, he was just like, 'I’m watching from the side, everything looks good. Sometimes it’s just baseball.'"
In New York, the 33-year-old Brach replaces left-hander Donnie Hart, whom the Mets optioned to Triple-A Syracuse to clear 25-man roster space. The team also transferred outfielder Brandon Nimmo to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster. Brach was active Friday as the Mets opened a critical three-game series with the Nationals.
If Brach thrives, he could assume some of the middle-innings load that the Mets have largely given to Robert Gsellman, Luis Avilan and a rotating cadre of rookies. Although the Mets have seen significant improvement in their bullpen since the All-Star break, posting the Majors' third-best ERA after ranking 28th before the break, the group could still use help.
Enter Brach, who succeeded in that sort of role down the stretch last season, producing a 1.52 ERA for the Braves in 27 appearances. The Mets will pay Brach only a pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum, with the Cubs assuming the remainder of his $5 million salary.
“I’ve seen Brad throw a lot over the years, and I’ve seen him dominant, so I’m excited to have him,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.