The Mets are poised to acquire right-handers Elise Hernandez and Jeff Brigham of the Marlins, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. Minor league right Franklin Sanchez goes back to Miami in return. Both Hernandez and Brigham were designated for assignment by the Marlins earlier this week.
The acquisitions of Hernandez and Brigham will give the Mets much-needed depth in both the rotation and bullpen, where they currently face the prospect of losing significant portions of their workforce. Appetizer Jacob de Grom, Chris Bassett and Taijuan Walker are all free agents, and while the Mets have already re-signed Edwin Diazhave seen them too Set Lugo, Adam Ottavino, Mychal facts, Trevor May and Trevor Williams reach the free market.
Both Hernandez and Brigham have one minor league option year left—two, in Brigham’s case—and therefore should not be seen as locks to take a spot on next year’s Opening Day staff for the Mets. That said, Hernandez has over four years of MLB experience and Brigham has three, so they’re a bit more seasoned than the DFA pickup from the yard.
Hernandez in particular looked like a potentially solid big league starter at times. From 2020-21, he made 17 starts for the Fish and pitched to a 3.84 ERA with both strong strikeouts and walks – 26.4% and 5.7%, respectively. That came in a sample of just 77 1/3 innings, thanks in large part to a string of injuries. A lat load in 2020, followed by a bicep load and a quad load in 2021, combined to limit Hernandez’s time on the mound. Still, for a right hand who had pitched in his 25 and 26 seasons, it was an encouraging example to draw from.
The 2022 campaign, however, was a different story. Hernandez opened the season in Miami’s rotation, but lost his spot, splitting his workload evenly over 10 starts and 10 bullpen outings. The end result was a dismal 6.35 ERA, fueled in part by his strikeout rate (21.6%) and walk rate (7.9%) moving in the wrong direction. Home runs have long been a problem for Hernandez, but never more so than this past season, when he hit a whopping 2.74 homers per nine innings pitched. Put another way, an astounding 6.8% of batters who came to the plate against Hernandez hit a home run.
Despite those red flags, Hernandez is a 27-year-old right-hand man just one year away from quality rotation work spanning two seasons. Since he can be selected to Triple-A, he will likely be seen as a sixth or seventh option in the rotation should injuries necessitate such a move. Excellent Spring Training could, of course, put him in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day staff, but even if he has a ticket to Syracuse to start the ’23 season, he’s a better rotational drop than many clubs in the upper minors. Hernandez is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to make $1.8 million by 2023. That’s more than some clubs might prefer to pay for a depth option, but the Mets with deep pockets are probably more comfortable with that option (and could always look to sign Hernandez). to a split contract with separate pay rates in the Majors and Triple-A).
As for the 30-year-old Brigham, he is coming off a more successful 2022 campaign. In 24 innings with the Marlins, he worked to a 3.38 ERA with a strong 27.7% hit percentage against a 9.9% walk percentage.
Brigham missed all of the 2021 season and much of last season while dealing with a nerve injury in his right biceps, so durability is a concern, but since 2019 he’s pitched about a full season’s worth of innings (63 1 /3 ) with a 4.12 ERA, 25.1% strikeout rate and 9% walk rate. Last season’s average heat of 94.7 mph was down from 2019’s peak of 96.6 mph, but results were still good. Like Stephen Ridings, who recently claimed his relinquishment, Brigham is likely seen as an optional low who may be able to compete for one of the final spots in what should be another Mets bullpen this winter. He is projected to earn a modest salary of $800,000 by 2023.
As for the Marlins’ return, they will acquire 22-year-old Sanchez, who posted a combined 3.79 ERA in 35 2/3 innings over two Class-A levels in 2022. Sanchez fantasized 27.1% of his opponents, a strong mark, but also walked an unsustainable 13.5% of the batters he faced. The Marlins sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he was tagged for nine runs in 7 1/3 innings and walked more (six) than he struck out (five).
Sanchez wasn’t among the Mets’ top contenders at Baseball America, FanGraphs, or MLB.com, though that’s not much of a surprise for a pitcher traded for a few recent DFAs. He’ll give the Marlins a young arm with bat-missing capabilities, but also some glaring command issues – the type of project arm often included as a lottery ticket in small swaps of this nature.