In a signing that likely took place a long time ago, but hasn’t officially shown up on the Cubs’ transaction registry, the team is bringing back lefty Rex Brothers on a minor league deal, according to Baseball America.
Together with deals we already knew about, BA’s latest minor league transactions update has Brothers in there for the Cubs. Given the relative dearth of lefty options for the bullpen competition (compared to the very large list of righties), it makes sense.
It also makes sense for the Cubs to bring back Brothers based on what they saw at the alternate site last year. I heard and read from multiple places that Brothers was on a run at one point where he looked as good as he’s ever looked, but unfortunately never really got a meaningful chance to port that over to the big league team. Hopefully some continuity with the Cubs could keep him on track, and able to contribute this year.
Brothers, 33, is one of those white whale relievers that every team knows has insanely good stuff, but hasn’t ever been able to consistently harness it (at least not since his earliest days with the Rockies). The lefty pairs an upper-90s fastball from a funky angle with a ridiculous wipeout slider, and when you see him “on,” he looks like an elite setup man or closer. He’s that good. But he gets wild, both in terms of a substantial walk rate, and also in terms of badly missing his spots and getting knocked around.
I’ve offered the comparison before because it’s good context for Cubs fans: Brothers right now is like a lefty Dillon Maples. The two pitches are that good. The inability to consistently execute them is that vexing. He faced 15 batters with the Cubs in 2020, and he struck out 8(!) of them. But he also walked three and gave up two homers. That was kinda him in a nutshell.
Brothers will come to Spring Training to try to win a job in the Opening Day bullpen, and otherwise could be an up and down guy if he makes the roster. Despite the journeyman career, Brothers incredibly still has a minor league option year remaining, which could come in handy.
Other lefties in the mix to try to win a job in the bullpen include Adam Morgan, Kyle Ryan, and Brad Wieck, as well as guys who are more likely to have to work a bit in the upper minors first before they get a shot, like D.J. Snelten and Jerry Vasto. You’ve also got Justin Steele, who could be in the mix, but as Bryan has aptly pointed out, we still don’t know whether the Cubs are going to try to keep him in a starting role for now.