Marlins Trade Elieser Hernandez, Jeff Brigham To Mets

The Mets are set to acquire right-handers Elieser Hernández and Jeff Brigham from the Marlins, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. minor league righty Franklin Sanchez is headed 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 some needed depth in both the rotation and the bullpen, where they’re currently faced with the prospect of losing significant chunks of their staff. starters Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and taijuan walker are all free agents, and while the Mets already re-signed Edwin Diazthey’ve also seen Seth Lugo, Adam Ottavino, Mychal Givens, Trevor May and Trevor Williams reach the open market.

Both Hernandez and Brigham have a minor league option year remaining — two, in Brigham’s case — and therefore shouldn’t be seen as locks to occupy a spot on next year’s Opening Day staff for the Mets. That said, Hernandez has four-plus year of MLB experience and Brigham has three, so they’re a bit more seasoned than the garden-variety DFA pickup.

Hernandez, in particular, has at times looked like a potentially solid big league starter. From 2020-21, he made 17 starts for the Fish and pitched to a 3.84 ERA with strong strikeout and walk rates alike — 26.4% and 5.7%, respectively. That came in a sample of just 77 1/3 innings, thanks largely to a series of injuries. A lat strain in 2020, follow by biceps inflammation and a quad strain in 2021, combined to limit Hernandez’s time on the mound. Still, for a righty who’d been pitching in his age-25 and age-26 seasons, it was an encouraging sample from which to draw.

The 2022 campaign, however, was another story. Hernandez opened the season in Miami’s rotation but lost his spot and wound up splitting his workload evenly between 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%) trending in the wrong directions. Home runs have long been an issue for Hernandez but never more so than this past season, when he yielded a staggering 2.74 homers per nine innings pitched. Put another way, a stunning 6.8% of the hitters who came the plate against Hernandez connected on a home run.

Those red flags notwithstanding, Hernandez is a 27-year-old righty who’s only one year removed from quality rotation work spread across two seasons. Since he can be optioned to Triple-A, he’s likely viewed as a sixth or seventh option in the rotation, should injuries necessitate such a move. An excellent Spring Training could put him in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day staff, of course, but even if he’s ticketed for Syracuse to begin the ’23 season, he’s a better rotation fallback than many clubs have in the upper minors. Hernandez is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $1.8MM in 2023. That’s more than some clubs might prefer to pay for a depth option, but the deep-pocketed Mets are likely more comfortable with that possibility (and could always look to sign Hernandez to a split contract with separate rates of pay in the Majors and Triple-A).

Turning to the 30-year-old Brigham, he’s 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% strikeout rate against a 9.9% walk rate.

Brigham missed the entire 2021 campaign and much of this past season while dealing with a nerve injury in his right biceps, so durability is something of a concern, but dating back to 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. This past season’s 94.7 mph average heater was down from its 96.6 mph peak in 2019, but the results were still sound. As with recent waiver claim Stephen Ridings, Brigham is likely viewed as an optional depth piece who can perhaps live for one of the final spots in what should be a new-look Mets bullpen this winter. He’s projected for a modest $800K salary in 2023.

As for the Marlins’ return, they’ll acquire the 22-year-old Sanchez, who posted a combined 3.79 ERA in 35 2/3 innings across two Class-A levels in 2022. Sanchez fanned 27.1% of his opponents, a strong mark, but also walked an untenable 13.5% of hitters 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 hitters (six) than he struck out (five).

Sanchez didn’t rank among the Mets’ top prospects at any Baseball America, FanGraphs or MLB.com, though that’s not really a surprise for a pitcher who’s being swapped out for a pair of 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 minor swaps of this nature.

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