The Royals have signed righty Colten Brewer to a minor league contract, per a club announcement. Presumably, he’ll head to Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee whenever the lockout draws to a close. Brewer was outrighted off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in June and was not added back prior to the end of the season. That allowed him to become a minor league free agent at season’s end (and thus allowed him to sign during the current Major League transaction freeze).
Brewer, 29, has spent the past three seasons in Boston, logging a combined 81 1/3 innings of 4.98 ERA ball with a 20.3% strikeout rate, a 13.3% walk rate and a 50.4% ground-ball rate. He was a solid and oft-used member of the Boston bullpen in 2019 (4.12 ERA, 54 2/3 innings) but has since been clobbered for a 6.75 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. He appeared in just one game with the Sox in the 2021 season, allowing four runs in a lone inning before being designated for assignment and clearing outright waivers.
While Brewer hasn’t had extensive MLB success, it’s easy enough to see why a team might be intrigued by a no-risk flier on the righty. He’s averaged nearly 94 mph on his go-to cutter over the past few seasons, shown strong spin rates on his breaking ball and boasted that well above-average grounder rate. For the Royals, in particular, that affinity for grounders is surely appealing; Kansas City has talented infield defenders such as Nicky Lopez, Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi already in the big leagues, with top prospects Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto expected to debut in 2022. They’re known more for their bats than their gloves, but both Witt and Pratto are well regarded defenders in addition to their prodigious potential at the dish.
Bullpen help figures to be one of the main priorities for the Royals post-lockout. President of baseball operations Dayton Moore spoke in November of building a “championship-caliber bullpen,” and while Brewer is little more than depth for the time being, most of the game’s best bullpens have unearthed a hidden gem or two on just this type of non-guaranteed deal.
Stockpiling bullpen options is only natural, and the Royals, who have also added former Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino in recent weeks, figure to take a few dice rolls of this nature in addition to pursuing some more notable veterans — once that is permitted. At present, each of Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, Jake Brentz and perhaps Domingo Tapia has a bullpen job locked down, but there should be plenty of competition to round out the remainder of the relief corps.