The Cubs have been extremely quiet relative to recent offseasons, but that does not mean the club did not have roster issues to address. One area Chicago wanted to shore up for the upcoming season was the bullpen, and the club took a step in that direction on Thursday.
Sources confirmed to MLB.com that the Cubs have reached an agreement with free-agent reliever Brad Brach on a one-year contract worth $3 million for the 2019 campaign, pending a physical. The deal also includes a mutual option for '20 that will increase the guaranteed value of the pact, though the details of that part of the deal were not immediately known.
The Cubs have not commented.
Brach provides some added right-handed depth for the Cubs, who expect to be without closer Brandon Morrow for at least a couple weeks to start the season. Morrow underwent an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his right elbow on Nov. 6 to clean up some cartilage in the joint.
As things currently stand, Brach joins a Cubs bullpen that also projects to include Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Mike Montgomery, C.J. Edwards, Tyler Chatwood, Brian Duensing and Brandon Kintzler. Options behind that group include Randy Rosario, Kyle Ryan, Alec Mills, Rowan Wick and Dillon Maples, among others.
Last season, the Cubs' relief corps led the National League with a 3.35 ERA, .225 opponents' average and 0.78 home runs allowed per nine innings, but there were other statistical areas of concern. For example, the bullpen's walk rate (11 percent) was 14th in the NL, the strikeout rate (22.6 percent) ranked ninth and the group logged the fifth-most innings (588 1/3) in the Senior Circuit.
Brach, who will turn 33 in April, offers some more veteran late-inning depth for Chicago's cast of relief arms.
In 69 appearances last year, Brach compiled a 3.59 ERA with 60 strikeouts against 28 walks in 62 2/3 innings between tours with the Orioles and Braves. After being traded to Atlanta at the end of July, he spun a 1.52 ERA in 23 2/3 innings over the season's final two months. Brach held right-handed batters to a .243 average (.692 OPS) last year, but he saw lefties hit .330 (.838 OPS) off him.
Brach has put together an eight-year career in the big leagues with San Diego, Baltimore and Atlanta after not being picked until the 42nd round of the 2008 Draft. He owns a 3.08 career ERA with 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 424 appearances (all in relief), and he was an American League All-Star for the Orioles in '16, when he posted a 2.05 ERA.