The Mets made a bunch of high-profile bullpen acquisitions this offseason, retaining Edwin Díaz and Adam Ottavino and adding David Robertson and Brooks Raley. They also did a lot of lower-profile work to rebuild the general bullpen depth, including a trade with the Marlins for 31-year-old right hander Jeff Brigham. He’s not the sort of pitcher who’s going to strike out 50 percent of the batters he faces or close out games in the playoffs, but Brigham is an important bullpen depth piece who offers some further upside to dream on.
Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 2014, Brigham debuted in 2018 with four disastrous starts for the Marlins. A move to the bullpen in 2019 proved more fruitful, and he seemed primed to settle into a career in middle relief after posting solid results over 38.1 innings. Unfortunately, a bicep nerve injury knocked him out for the majority of 2020 and all of 2021. Outrighted off the roster, Brigham had to fight his way back to the big leagues in 2022, but he managed to do just that; after dominating in Triple-A, he tossed 24 innings of 3.38 ERA ball out of the Miami bullpen.
Then, for seemingly no reason, the Marlins designated Brigham for assignment. He wasn’t due a significant amount of money—only slightly more than the league minimum in his first year of arbitration—and still had minor league options remaining. Even the pitching-rich Marlins can use a player like that, but they seemed willing to let him go for nothing. The Mets swooped in and acquired him, along with Elieser Hernandez, at minimal cost (Jake Mangum is not that good) in one of the better, unheralded moves of the offseason.
Brigham is now in line to fill the same middle relief role for the Mets that he did for the Marlins. Billy Eppler and whoever else was making decisions this offseason made a concerted effort to rebuild optionable pitching depth this offseason, and Brigham is the best and most experienced pitcher they’ve added in that vein. In all likelihood, he’ll soak up some non-critical relief innings, occasionally get a seventh inning opportunity, and wind up shuttled back to Triple-A once or twice this season as the Mets churn the back of their bullpen. It’s an unexciting but important role.
That’s not all there is to like about Brigham, though, and there are some positive traits to get excited about if you dig past his good-but-not-great top-line results. His slider generated the 11th-most horizontal movement among pitchers who threw at least 100 pitches in 2023, making it one of the sweepier offerings in baseball. Eno Sarris’s stuff model loves the pitch, pegging it as the 17th-best slider in baseball. Other stuff models, like Cameron Grove’s (@Pitching_Bot), love Brigham’s overall arsenal as well, largely driven off the strength of his slider. Even with an underwhelming fastball, Brigham’s stuff is intriguing, and if you can squeeze a bit more juice out of his four-seam or improve his control slightly, he’d have the stuff to be a legitimate setup option.
Again, though, that’s not what the Mets are relying on Brigham to be. In a way, he’s the perfect middle relief option; optionable, solid baseline performance, but with plausible upside that could make him work in a higher leverage role. The Mets are lucky to have acquired him at such a minimal cost, and he’ll play an important role in keeping the bullpen deep and productive throughout the season.