MLB Free Agency

Cubs pitcher Brad Brach adds more fuel to baseball's free-agency conspiracy theory

Cubs pitcher Brad Brach adds more fuel to baseball's free-agency conspiracy theory

MESA, Ariz. — Brad Brach wouldn't go so far as to use the word "collusion," but he had some very interesting comments about the current state of Major League Baseball's free agency process.

The veteran reliever signed a one-year deal with the Cubs last month with an option for a second season. It was his first foray into free agency and his experience was a microcosm of what's wrong with the system right now from the players' perspective.

"It was stressful and it kinda dragged on forever," Brach said Friday morning at Cubs camp. "You hear about interest in the first week and then you don't get offers until late December, January and you're just kinda wondering what's going on. Teams say they like you, but they're not making you any offers. Then you finally get offers and 6 or 7 teams are giving you the same offer.

"It's just a weird process and nobody really knows what's going on right now. Obviously I would've liked the experience to have been a little better. I'm just glad to be here now and glad it's over with for at least this year and hope to pitch well enough to be here again next year."

Brach may not be a household name to casual baseball fans, but he was one of the top bullpen arms available on the open market after the 2018 season. MLB Trade Rumors ranked him No. 41 on their list of the Top 50 free agents, ahead of former Cubs relievers Jesse Chavez and Justin Wilson, among others.

The 32-year-old has been a reliable big-league reliever for the last 7 seasons, sporting a 3.05 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 over 415 appearances in that span while racking up 33 saves and 85 holds. He made the All-Star team in 2016 and finished with a 2.05 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 79 innings with the Orioles that season.

He struggled to begin last year (4.85 ERA) with the last-place Orioles, but was rejuvenated by a midseason trade to the contending Braves (1.52 ERA) and headed into free agency with some momentum.

Relievers are in high demand on the open market right now with so much importance on the bullpen (especially in October), but Brach only got a reported $4.35 million and one year guaranteed from the Cubs. Meanwhile, a host of other relievers with quality big-league resumes are forced to take minor-league deals as MLB teams continue their free agency freeze-out.

"I really don't know [what to make of the state of free agency]," Brach said. "We talked to certain teams and they told us, 'We have an algorithm and here's where you fall in that scale.' It's just kinda weird that all offers are the same that come around the same time and everybody tells you there's an algorithm, but you figure teams have different ones, but I don't know.

"It's definitely a weird process and you can't figure it out. Luckily, the guys in the bullpen have been the ones that haven't been hurt as bad. I think if you're at the top of the class, it's fine, but if you're somewhere in the middle, you're gonna get hurt and that's where they're kinda taking advantage of us."

It wasn't like Brach was throwing a pity party or anything when he met with Chicago media for the first time Friday morning. He seemed genuinely pumped up to be a part of the Cubs bullpen and was hooked from the first sentence out of Joe Maddon's mouth during a team meeting the other day, talking about how the goal is to play — and win — the final game of the season.

The 2018 Orioles put together one of the most miserable seasons in recent MLB history (115 losses) and Brach felt the effects as a reliever typically used to working in high-leverage situations.

He made a minor mechanical adjustment but for the most part, he believes the reason he was better with the Braves down the stretch was simply jumping more than 40 games in the standings — going from a last-place rebuilding team to a young squad ticketed for the playoffs.

"It gives you a little kick in the butt and gets you back into winning baseball, which — especially in the bullpen — you want to be a part of," Brach said. "When you're losing so many games, it ends up turning into kind of a spring training where, 'You haven't pitched in 3 or 4 days and we need you to get some work.'

"I just never really excel in those roles. Coming here, knowing that you're expecting to win from Day 1, it's exciting and I'm looking forward to it."

Brach doesn't know what his exact role will be in the Cubs bullpen, but he said he's ready to handle whatever — from filling in for injured closer Brandon Morrow to setting up for teammates like Pedro Strop or Steve Cishek or even pitching in the middle innings if needed.

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Ignite the Hot Stove: A complete list of MLB free agents

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USA TODAY

Ignite the Hot Stove: A complete list of MLB free agents

With the World Series in the books, the Hot Stove is about to get switched on for the winter.

Baseball's free-agency period begins this weekend, and there are a whole bunch of players out there for teams looking to make an upgrade or two this offseason. The list includes a few of the game's biggest stars, including Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, who could fetch two of the biggest contracts in baseball history.

Here's a list of the game's free agents, guys who could end up at a stadium near you.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Clay Buchholz
Patrick Corbin
Randall Delgado
Daniel Descalso
Jacob Diekman
Jon Jay
Jeff Mathis
A.J. Pollock
Chris Stewart
Brad Ziegler

Atlanta Braves

Brad Brach
Lucas Duda
Ryan Flaherty
Nick Markakis
Brandon McCarthy
Peter Moylan
René Rivera
Aníbal Sánchez
Kurt Suzuki

Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones
Colby Rasmus

Boston Red Sox

Nathan Eovaldi
Joe Kelly
Craig Kimbrel
Ian Kinsler
Steve Pearce
Brandon Phillips
Drew Pomeranz

Chicago Cubs

Jesse Chavez
Jorge De La Rosa
Jaime García
Daniel Murphy
Bobby Wilson
Justin Wilson

Chicago White Sox

Jeanmar Gómez
Miguel González
Hector Santiago      
James Shields

Cincinnati Reds

Matt Harvey    

Cleveland Indians

Cody Allen
Michael Brantley
Melky Cabrera
Lonnie Chisenhall
Rajai Davis
Josh Donaldson
Brandon Guyer
Andrew Miller
Óliver Pérez
Adam Rosales
Josh Tomlin

Colorado Rockies

Drew Butera
Carlos González
Matt Holliday
DJ LeMahieu
Adam Ottavino

Detroit Tigers

José Iglesias
Francisco Liriano
Víctor Martínez
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 

Houston Astros

Evan Gattis
Marwin González
Dallas Keuchel
Martín Maldonado
Charlie Morton
Tony Sipp

Kansas City Royals

Alcides Escobar
Jason Hammel

Los Angeles Angels

 Jim Johnson
Garrett Richards
Junichi Tazawa
Blake Wood
Chris B. Young
Eric Young Jr.

Los Angeles Dodgers

John Axford
Brian Dozier
Yasmani Grandal
Dan Hudson
Manny Machado
Ryan Madson
Hyun-Jin Ryu

Milwaukee Brewers

Gio González
Curtis Granderson
Wade Miley

Minnesota Twins

Matt Belisle
Logan Forsythe
Chris Gimenez
Joe Mauer
Logan Morrison
Ervin Santana

New York Mets

Jerry Blevins
Austin Jackson
José Lobatón
Devin Mesoraco
A.J. Ramos
José Reyes           

New York Yankees

Zach Britton
J.A. Happ
Adeiny Hechavarría
Lance Lynn
Andrew McCutchen
David Robertson
CC Sabathia
Neil Walker

Oakland Athletics

Brett Anderson
Trevor Cahill
Jeurys Familia
Edwin Jackson
Matt Joyce
Shawn Kelley
Jed Lowrie
Jonathan Lucroy

Philadelphia Phillies

José A. Bautista
Asdrúbal Cabrera
Aaron Loup
Wilson Ramos

Pittsburgh Pirates

Jung-ho Kang
Jordy Mercer

St. Louis Cardinals

Matt Adams
Bud Norris
Tyson Ross

San Diego Padres

A.J. Ellis
Freddy Galvis

San Francisco Giants

Gregor Blanco
Derek Holland
Nick Hundley
Hunter Pence

Seattle Mariners

Gordon Beckham
Nelson R. Cruz
Zach Duke
Cameron Maybin
David Phelps
Andrew Romine
Adam Warren

Tampa Bay Rays

Carlos Gómez
Sergio Romo

Texas Rangers

Tony Barnette
Adrian Beltré
Bartolo Colon
Yovani Gallardo

Toronto Blue Jays

Tyler Clippard
Marco Estrada

Washington Nationals

Joaquín Benoit
Tim Collins
Bryce Harper
Jeremy Hellickson
Kelvin Herrera
Greg Holland
Mark Reynolds
Matt Wieters

White Sox Talk Podcast: Rick Hahn Unplugged Live Remote Podcast

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Rick Hahn Unplugged Live Remote Podcast

White Sox GM Rick Hahn was our featured guest live at Reggie’s Rock Club in front of a live audience. No topics were off limits with our podcast crew and in the Q&A with White Sox fans. He talked about Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Zack Burdi, Luis Gonzalez and many of the White Sox prospects. Plus, Hahn spoke about his own impatience in the rebuild, the highlight of his tenure as GM, how many prospects have to hit for the rebuild to work, if the White Sox will spend big money in free agency and much, much more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: