The Cubs have been very active in terms of handing out minor league deals, so much so that they actually exceeded their quota for newsworthy signings. As such, a few transactions had slipped through the cracks until Chris Hilburn-Trenkle of Baseball America released an updated list of MiLB signings from December 15 – January 10.
On it were four previously unreported moves: RHP Bryan Brickhouse, RHP Juan Gamez, RHP William (Caleb) Simpson, and LHP Rex Brothers. Not exactly a quartet from which you’d expect to pull much impact, though it’s in keeping with the Cubs’ volume approach to the offseason. The plan has been to just load up on as many arms as possible and let attrition sort them out.
The 32-year-old Brothers is the most notable name here due to his time with the Rockies, but some may remember his brief stint with the Cubs as well. After coming over via trade in November of 2015, the Cubs released him four months later. He pitched in the Yankees system last year without making the bigs and has not recorded an out above Triple-A since 2017. He did, however, make one appearance with the Braves in 2018 in which he walked both batters he faced.
A strikeout artist whose fastball has averaged over 95 mph and can touch a few ticks higher, Brothers’ 10.52 K/9 is offset by a 5.21 BB/9. There’s a Chatwoodian feel to this given the Colorado connection, but his fastball/slider repertoire makes Brothers almost like a left-handed Dillon Maples. The possible angle to this signing is that Brothers is a lefty with relatively neutral splits, which is good with MLB’s new rules.
Brickhouse is a former third round pick by the Royals who has only pitched a total of 38.2 innings above A-ball in eight MiLB seasons. The 27-year-old has a 4.58 overall ERA in that time with 206 strikeouts and 128 walks over 232 innings. At the risk of dismissing this one out of hand, there’s just much other than his name to be excited about right now.
Gamez may provide a little system depth, but he’s never pitched about rookie ball in the States and has an ERA north of 6.15 over his last 50+ innings at that level. At 5-foot-11 and close to 250 pounds, he bears a mild resemblance to former Cub Rich Garces. Incidentally, both men started with the Twins before moving to the Cubs.
Simpson is yet another big strikeout, big walk pitcher who has not pitched above Double-A over five seasons in the minors. He missed all of 2014 and ’15 due to a strained elbow ligament that eventually required Tommy John reconstruction, so that checks a big box for the Cubs. I’m just kidding there, as all teams have plenty of TJ pitchers given how common the surgery is these days.
Outside of Brothers, it doesn’t appear as though any of these guys really has a chance to make the roster. There is, however, a trend here that speaks to the Cubs’ overall developmental philosophy. In the past, they might have shied away from some of these pitchers due to their erratic performance and frightening walk numbers. But as the organization has gotten more aggressive and revamped the whole pitching infrastructure, targeting riskier prospects could really pay off.