Coming off an injury, and there are ongoing injury concerns.
Could be signed to a relative bargain.
Am I describing Tyson Ross? Well, I could be, since that all applies, but Ross finally signed with the Rangers this weekend.
So instead, I’m actually talking about lefty Brett Anderson. Buster Olney wonders aloud whether he could be an option for the Cubs in their search for starting depth:
After Tyson Ross's decision to go to TEX, the Cubs continue to evaluate free agent pitching. Brett Anderson is a possible fit.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 17, 2017
I’ve brought up Anderson around here before, mostly in a bemused comment about how it’s interesting that he’s still unsigned, and how there haven’t even been any rumors. Each time, I’ve been greeted by two distinct responses, neither of them pleasant: (1) he’s never healthy, so forget it; and (2) he made that one tweet, so forget it.
To the first complaint, since Anderson would be explored as depth/upside only, his health questions are not a reason not to sign him – they’re a reason he won’t sign for a huge contract. If he could be had on a minor league deal (albeit with a decent-sized split MLB salary, plus incentives for games pitched), why would you not be interested just because he’s had injuries before?
To the second complaint, I’ll concede, it’s not a great tweet:
Real classy cubs fans throwing beer in the Dodgers family section. Stay classy fucking idiots.
— Brett Anderson (@BAnderson3737) October 23, 2016
That was the night the Cubs clinched the NLCS, which, like, of course Cubs fans were throwing beer. I was there. Everyone was throwing everything because the Cubs were going to their first World Series in 71 years. Emotions were running high. And, of course, for the same reason, I’ll mostly excuse Anderson – emotions were probably running high on his end, too, and, being that he’s a free-tweeting type (usually fun), he let one go. I also respect that he still hasn’t deleted it. (I’ll also add out of an obligatory sense of fairness: it is possible that there were some idiot Cubs fans who were specifically trying to throw/spray beer on Dodgers family members. It strikes me as unlikely, but, if you’ve been to a sporting event, you know it’s not impossible, either.)
So, then, for me, we’re left with a guy worth pursuing. Well … *if* he’s worth pursuing. How’s he as a pitcher?
Anderson, who is incredibly still only 28, was drafted by the Diamondbacks, but came up with the A’s. There, he made his bones as one of the better young pitchers in the game, before succumbing to a spate of injuries that limited him to just about 320 innings (a good season and a half’s worth) from 2010 through 2014. In 2015, with the Dodgers, he managed 180.1 innings of effective ball, which was sufficient to net him a qualifying offer, which he accepted.
In 2016, he managed just 11.1 innings spread across four outings in late August and late September thanks to back surgery in the spring.
The injuries for Anderson have been an interesting thing, as the biggest time-sucks have been a foot injury, an oblique injury, a back injury, and 2011 Tommy John surgery. That is to say, you wouldn’t necessarily look at him and say that he’s a typical “injury-prone” pitcher (as in, a guy who has chronic arm problems – the stuff you expect to show up again down the road). That doesn’t mean you can dismiss all the injuries as flukey and entirely unrelated, though. And back issues can certainly be chronic, even after surgery.
As for his pitching, well, sure, he’s solid. He’s got a career 3.86/3.70/3.55 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line, and has demonstrated the ability to be a good middle-of-the-rotation starter when healthy. But, as we just went over, he has almost never been healthy for a full season in his big league career.
If the Cubs want to bring him in on a minor league deal in the hopes that he’s healthy, that’s certainly fine by me. And, as was the case with Tyson Ross, the Cubs would have the luxury of giving Anderson starts – to rest the other five starters – to see where he’s at in April and/or May, but wouldn’t necessarily be leaning on him to be one of their front five starters.
As things stand with the Cubs, their greatest pitching need is quality starting pitching depth. Anderson is, to me, less that than he is an upside play – like, he’s a guy who is a solid rotation member (even on the Cubs) if he’s healthy. But, since you cannot count on him to be healthy, his presence doesn’t necessarily help on the depth front. (Which is complicated by the fact that he’s not a guy you could option up and down from AAA.)
In the end, it’s all about the contract and the role. Upside play to see where he’s at this spring? Absolutely.
Counting on him as the primary depth/definite 5th/6th starter for the rotation? That would not be prudent.
Speaking of depth, if you missed the Cubs’ waiver wire move to pick up another arm earlier today, catch up here.