Today, the Oakland Athletics reportedly agreed to terms with lefty starter Scott Kazmir on a two-year, $22 million deal. It’s a relatively expensive deal for a guy whose career appeared to be over just two years ago (good on Kazmir for coming back – and his performance last year for the Indians is a reminder why those minor league flyer deals are worth making year after year). But the A’s paid an annual premium to keep the deal just two years. It’s an understandable deal, and probably just about right for a guy who was worth 2.5 wins last year, is just 30, and wasn’t tied to draft pick compensation.
The obvious Cubs-related implications here are that (1) Kazmir is off the market for teams looking toward those mid-tier options (the Cubs were never directly connected to Kazmir); and (2) the A’s weren’t going to be in on Jeff Samardzija, so no potential suitors were lost in this signing*.
*(But see the Samardzija point below.)
Having signed Kazmir to theoretically round out their rotation, the cost-conscious A’s may now look to spin-off lefty starter Brett Anderson, who projects to be expensive, oft-injured depth.
To a team like the Cubs, however (and probably a bunch of other teams, too), Anderson looks like an opportunity to take a chance on picking up a stud. First, let’s put the injury stuff out there, since it’s a primary reason he’d be available. Anderson had Tommy John surgery in 2011, coming back for a brief stint in 2012. He was healthy to start the 2013 season, but lasted just six starts before suffering a stress fracture in his foot. He was out until the end of August, when he returned in a relief role. Prior to the Tommy John surgery, he’d had some forearm issues, though it’s logical to suspect that those were all elbow issues that were possibly resolved by the surgery.
So, he might be healthy now. And when Anderson’s been healthy, he’s been very good. A former top ten prospect in all of baseball, Anderson’s career K/BB is a robust 2.98, and his career FIP is 3.56. At just 25, and a lefty, Anderson’s the kind of guy you gladly take a chance on, especially if you’re in a position to take chances (as the Cubs are). If he’s healthy, you may have just landed a front-of-the-rotation lefty in his mid-20s on the cheap.
The rub with Anderson – other than the injury history – is that he’s set to make $8 million in 2014, which isn’t inexpensive for a guy who hasn’t thrown more than 83.1 big league innings since 2010. He comes with a team option for 2015, which is nice, but it’s $12 million and includes a $1.5 million buyout. So, if you trade for Anderson and he becomes a pumpkin, you’re on the hook for 9.5 million sunk dollars.
How do you value a guy like that in trade? It’s hard to imagine giving up a top 100 type prospect for Anderson, even with all the promise. Beyond that, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with the Cubs giving up a couple top 15 organization guys, even, given the current strength and depth of the system. A top 15 and a back-end top 30? Maybe. It’s really hard to say.
An additional bit of relevance here for the Cubs? A team like the Blue Jays – who have apparently been interested in Anderson for some time – could view taking a crack at Anderson to be a preferable option to dealing big-time prospects for Jeff Samardzija.