There was talk on Monday that the Orioles and Mets may be a good match for a potential swap involving a New York outfielder, probably Curtis Granderson, and a Baltimore reliever, probably Brad Brach. No deal is imminent. But whether this specific deal happens or not, the O’s should try to move Brach at some point this winter.
Brach was an all-star for the first time in his career last year after he had a ridiculous first half to the season. During that time, he pitched to a 0.91 ERA and had a .155 opponent batting average. Baseball Reference has Brach as a 2.6 WAR player in 2016 and a 2.0 WAR guy in 2015. Those are both pretty huge numbers for a middle reliever.
For that production, he is slated to make only $2.9 million this upcoming season and is under team control through the 2018 campaign as well. It would be a classic “sell high” move.
Not to mention, the guy clearly has “closer stuff”. His strikeout rates of 10.1 and 10.5 per nine innings over 2015 and 2016, respectively, illustrate that point. If Britton needs a night off or faces injury problems, the O’s have a logical replacement. But it is for all of those reasons, plus some downfalls, that Brach should be traded if the Birds find a partner.
Sell, sell, sell
Elite relief pitchers are making out like bandits in baseball right now. Aroldis Chapman wants $100 million. Mark Melancon is about to sign for $62 million. Andrew Miller was the MVP of the American League Championship Series and makes $9 million per season. Craig Kimbrel is even richer than that and Boston had to give up four prospects to bring him in from San Diego. Teams want and “need” top level bullpen arms and are more than willing to pay for it.
Brach is a tick below those mentioned above, of course. But that is only because he doesn’t have the label “closer” attached to him. He is stuck behind the man who may be the best in the business. But as mentioned before, he also has a substantially smaller contract.
The O’s ‘pen is stacked
Brach is a key cog in the Baltimore bullpen, but he wouldn’t necessarily be difficult to replace. Britton is clearly the closer. If his performance in the Wild Card Game is to be belived, Mychal Givens may be even better than Brach. O’Day has to be better, and healthier, than he was in 2016. It looks like Donnie Hart can handle more than just one batter. And Mike Wright’s days as a starter must be done, so his power arm would fit in relief. Long story short: there are options.
And let’s not pretend that Brach’s form did not start to slip near the end of last season. In the second half, he was just average, pitching to a 3.94 ERA, a .270/.325/.400 slash line against and giving up 31 hits in just 29.2 innings of work.
Even so, Brach had the best season of his career in his age-30 campaign and remains an attractive trade chip.
The O’s have needs
As they are currently constructed, the Orioles have plenty of holes. Adam Jones is all alone in the starting outfield. There is no clear DH. And right now, Caleb Joseph would be the starting catcher a year after driving in zero runs.
On top of that, the minor league system is still depleted. The most talented players (Cody Sedlock, Chance Sisco, Hunter Harvey, Ryan Mountcastle) are still a little ways away. And the guys that are close to being regular contributors (Trey Mancini, Christian Walker, Parker Bridwell, Jason Garcia) don’t exactly wow you.
That said, it’s not like the Orioles HAVE to get rid of Brach. He is an inexpensive, impactful player that still has another year of team control. And the O’s are prepared to win now, so they shouldn’t trade a quality player unless it benefits them.
In the worst case scenario, the Birds have an awful first half to the 2017 season and are looking to be sellers at the deadline in July. If that happens, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brach headed out of town.
But the problem with waiting is that Brach’s value can’t really do anything but go down from this point. At this moment, he is coming off of a career year and has multiple years of control. There is no guarantee that he will stay at this level.
And who knows what will happen to the current fad of finding elite relievers? These things happen in waves. If next season’s World Series champs feature a pitching staff made up of nothing but knuckleballers, that will become the new hot commodity. So, while it is not imperative that Brach get dealt, there many never been a more opportune time to do so.