Brewer, 31, was a fourth-round pick by the Pirates in the 2011 draft. After several years in the Pirates and Yankees farm systems, Brewer made his big league debut with the Padres in 2018 though the right-hander struggled to a 5.59 ERA across 11 appearance that first season. From there the right-hander joined the Red Sox, the club with whom he spent most of his time in the majors. In parts of three seasons with Boston, Brewer posted a 4.98 ERA and 5.20 FIP across 81 1/3 innings of work. While he struck out a respectable 20.3% of batters faced during that time while generating a solid 50.4% groundball rate, Brewer walked a whopping 13.3% of batters faced during his time with the Red Sox.
Those control issues led the club to designate Brewer for assignment back in June 2021. He was eventually outrighted to Triple-A and spent the remainder of the season in the minor leagues before signing a minor league deal with the Royals the following offseason but was confined to the minor leagues for the entire 2022 season. During his 18-month stint at the Triple-A level, Brewer put up a relatively pedestrian 4.53 ERA over 57 2/3 innings of work as his walk rate remained over 10%.
That didn’t stop Brewer from landing with the Rays on a minor league deal during the 2022-23 offseason, though he ultimately wouldn’t make it to Opening Day as a member of the organization. The Rays instead got together with the Yankees on a minor trade before the start of the season that shipped Brewer to the Bronx, where he joined the club’s 40-man roster. He put up decent enough results in 8 1/3 innings of work for the big league club with a 4.32 ERA, but was nonetheless designated for assignment in mid-April.
Brewer accepted an outright assignment with the Yankees and pitched exceptionally well in 20 innings with the club’s Triple-A affiliate, posting a 1.35 ERA with a whopping 29.9% strikeout rate. That brief flash of dominance earned Brewer attention from Nippon Professional Baseball’s Hanshin Tigers, and he signed with the club for the remainder of the 2023 season. Though he managed just 12 1/3 innings down the stretch in Japan, the strong numbers continued. Brewer allowed an ERA of just 2.19 across 14 appearances overseas, striking out 30.2% of batters faced while walking 11.3%.
Brewer’s stretch of dominance in the upper minors and abroad last season has seemingly caught the attention of the Cubs. Chicago is among a handful of clubs known to be looking for relief help this winter along with the Cardinals, Rangers, and Astros. Brewer could conceivably bolster the depth of a club that saw the likes of Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger depart for free agency. With that being said, the addition of Brewer seems unlikely to take the Cubs out of the relief market given their reported interest in some higher-level arms like former Rays righty Robert Stephenson and veteran closer Liam Hendriks. For now, Brewer figures to enter Spring Training with a shot at a role in the club’s bullpen competing alongside the likes of Daniel Palencia and Jose Cuas.