Rather than spend big, it is apparent that the Cubs are taking an alternate route toward building the bullpen in 2016.
Enter left-hander Rex Brothers, who was traded to the Cubs after being designated for assignment by the Rockies. Getting hit with a DFA was a shock to Brothers, who seemed to embrace the idea of a fresh start after being surprised by the move at first.
So, what are the Cubs getting in their new southpaw?
Brothers comes with his share of risks, most notably suffering a pretty obvious drop in velocity, per BrooksBaseball. His average four-seamer peaked at 96.92 mph in June 2012, but dipped ever since. It fell to 93.25 in June 2014 before settling at 94.34 in October 2015.
Browsing Brothers’ PITCHf/x numbers via FanGraphs shows he was reliant on his four-seamer when it was at its peak, throwing it 72 percent of the time in 2012 and at a 66.5 percent rate in 2013 when it peaked at an average velocity of 95.2. But as velocity dropped, usage seemed to drop. When it bottomed out at 92.8, his usage fell to 64.0 percent.
In 2015, Brothers was primarily a fastball-slider pitcher. He threw his four-seamer at 55.4 percent and slider 43.5 percent, ditching his two-seamer (which peaked at a 10.1 usage rate in 2013). After spending time in Triple-A in 2015, Brothers’ velocity saw an slight increase and reportedly touched 97.
Brothers was at his best in 2013 when he saved 19 games and posted a 1.74 ERA/3.36 FIP/3.49 xFIP in 67.1 innings of work. His a 10.16 K/9 and 27.1 K% showed he could miss bats, but walks kept Brothers from reaching his full potential. Brothers’ 12.8 BB% and 4.81 BB/9 in 2013 ranked fifth and eighth highest in baseball, respectively, among qualified relievers.
He was supposed to be the Rockies closer in 2014, but problems with his mechanics tanked his performance and he eventually lost the gig to LaTroy Hawkins.
Brothers has been most effective against fellow lefties in his career, limiting them to a .221 average and .321 slugging percentage. Lefties own a healthy 14.1 percent walk rate in 418 plate appearances against Brothers, but they do strike out 28.7 percent of the time.
He has been effective in high leverage spots, too, as opposing hitters hit only .214 with a .332 slugging in those situations. However, opponents hurt him with walks (17.8 BB%).
Brothers excelled in high leverage situations in his breakout 2013 when opponents hit for a .165 average and slugged .226, while striking out in 26.3 percent of their 99 plate appearances. Granted, his 14.1 percent walk rate in those spots likely made things uneasy at times.
Brothers’ 13.1 BB% is the eighth highest among relievers since 2011, so there is an obvious need to get that straightened out in order for him to be a useful piece of the bullpen, or at least continue striking guys out at a huge rate.
The newest Cubs reliever is arbitration eligible for the first time in his career and was projected to make $1.5 million.