Cardinals Sign Aaron Brooks To Minor League Deal
The Cardinals announced Monday that they’ve signed righty Aaron Brooks to a minor league deal. The Paragon Sports International client received a non-roster invitation to Major League Spring Training. He was eligible to sign a minor league during the lockout by virtue of the fact that he was a minor league free agent returning from a stint overseas.
Brooks, 31, is a veteran of four big league seasons but has spent the 2020-21 seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization, where he’s notched a tidy 2.79 ERA in 229 1/3 innings for the Kia Tigers. While Brooks hasn’t missed many bats pitching overseas — he posted a rather pedestrian 20.1% strikeout rate — he’s demonstrated excellent command and posted practically inhuman ground-ball rates. Brooks has walked just 4.4% of his opponents in the KBO, and it’s hard to think of a much better team to take advantage of his outrageous 78.4% ground-ball rate than the defensively stout Cardinals.
This past season, St. Louis had a staggering five Gold Glove winners, including three in the infield: first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, second baseman Tommy Edman and third baseman Nolan Arenado. Shortstop Paul DeJong had a rough season offensively that cost him some reps in the infield as the Cards looked to get more offense into the lineup, but DeJong is regarded as a standout defender himself — evidenced by last year’s plus-6 Defensive Runs Saved and a career plus-36 mark in 4366 innings at the position.
Royals, A’s and Orioles fans may remember Brooks for his big league work across those three franchises. A ninth-round pick by Kansas City back in 2011, he made his MLB debut with K.C. in 2014-15 but was traded to the A’s alongside Sean Manaea in the swap that brought Ben Zobrist to the 2015 World Series champion Royals.
The A’s wound up trading Brooks to the Cubs in exchange for Chris Coghlan back in 2016, setting off a sequence of scenery changes for Brooks over the next several years. He went from Chicago to Milwaukee via waivers, and the Brewers traded him back to Oakland in exchange for cash. Brooks’ second stint with the A’s lasted about a half season, as the Orioles claimed him on waivers the following summer and, after the 2019 campaign, released him to allow him to pursue his KBO opportunity.
While making the rounds on the trade/waiver circuit, Brooks appeared in 47 big league games and tallied 170 2/3 frames with an uninspiring 6.49 ERA. He was never much of a ground-ball pitcher during his prior stints in the big leagues, so it seems he’s done some work to reinvent his approach on the mound while pitching in South Korea. If he’s able to replicate that KBO success in Triple-A, it’s likely the Cardinals will find a way to get him onto the big league roster in 2022.
The Cards already have a full rotation, but adding some depth along these lines was a clear need. Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas and offseason signee Steven Matz are set to occupy the top five spots in the St. Louis rotation, but a lack of starting depth nearly sunk the 2021 Cards when they saw their entire rotation outside of Wainwright hit the IL by June. Brooks joins in-house options like Jake Woodford, Johan Oviedo, T.J. Zeuch and Angel Rondon on the depth chart, and the Cards are surely also hopeful that prospects Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson can reach the Majors in 2022.