Scouting the Trade Market: Brett Anderson

Details of Brian McCann's vesting option
Tuesday Night Open Thread
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Update: Lookee here: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reports that the Yankees are showing interest in Anderson, and that he’s expected to be dealt next week at the Winter Meetings. Though given the flurry of recent activity, especially involving the A’s, it doesn’t appear anyone is waiting for the yearly conference to conduct their business.

While improving the offense appears to dominate the Yankees’ free agent agenda early this off-season, the pitching staff still presents a number of issues. Brian Cashman said he had to find 400 innings, meaning two reliable starters, this off-season. They could get 180 or so of those innings if Hiroki Kuroda accepts their offer, but they still have a huge number of innings to fill and not many attractive options on the free agent market.

The trade market looks fairly thin as well, yesterday’s deal involving Doug Fister notwithstanding. David Price might become available, but the Yankees don’t have the pieces to land him even if the Rays deigned to trade him within the division. Beyond that, it’s difficult to identify a team willing to part with an impact starter (except maybe the Red Sox, which is out of the question). That leaves the free agent market, which could inflate given the lack of trade options. Does anyone want Matt Garza for four years and $60 million, or to give up on a draft pick for the two good years Ubaldo Jimenez has produced in his career?

Make no mistake: the Yankees absolutely need two reliable starters this off-season. Getting cute with rotation construction will only compound the issue as the season wears on. Yet two reliable starters will give the Yankees four definites, including CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. For his part, Nova has yet to put together a full, effective season, so he remains something of an unknown. Behind him are David Phelps, Michael Pineda, and Vidal Nuno, all unreliable for one reason or another.

It might seem folly to add yet another unreliable arm to the fold, but it might be a gamble the Yankees need to make. This week we’ve learned that one potentially solid, but unreliable, pitcher has become available. Rumors started early in the off-season that the A’s could trade Brett Anderson, and with the addition of Scott Kazmir (two years, $22 million) and Jim Johnson (projected arbitration of around $10 million), they’re almost certainly looking to shed Anderson’s $8 million salary. In fact, just this morning we learned that the A’s are currently discussing an Anderson trade. While the Yankees aren’t mentioned, they could be players if Anderson remains on the A’s for a few more weeks.

Why it works

Bringing in a wild card like Anderson can work if the Yankees get their 400 additional innings from more reliable sources. In that case they’ll have Phelps, Pineda, and Nuno to battle for the fifth spot. Still, given the utter uncertainty of that group, why not add a guy who can perform considerably better than the typical fifth starter on a first-division team?

Despite a poor 2013 outing, Anderson has produced a 3.81 ERA during the parts of his five seasons in the majors (109 ERA+). His strikeout numbers haven’t been particularly impressive, but he has displayed good control a a decent ability to keep the ball in the park (though at Oakland Coliseum). Before he came up Baseball America rated him the No. 7 prospect in the game, a potential he’s shown signs of fulfilling, if it weren’t for that one big issue.

Injuries have plagued Anderson throughout his career. He spent 96 days on the DL in 2010 with elbow problems, and then underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of 2011. Even after he returned in late 2012 he got hurt, finishing the season on the DL with an oblique strain. In 2013 he suffered an ankle sprain after a rough start in April, but he did come back to strike out 16 in 12.2 innings out of the pen to close out the year.

Why the Yanks can use a wild card

Again, the entire idea of Anderson is predicated on the Yankees acquiring two other reliable starters. To rely on Anderson for 100 innings might not be the best bet. But it’s a bet the Yankees can make, given their current makeup. In fact, if they do find those 400 innings elsewhere, Anderson can be a huge strength.

If the Yankees get two starters, the fifth starter competition is between David Phelps, Michael Pineda, and Vidal Nuno. Phelps is the clear frontrunner before camp even starts, given his experience. At the same time, his value is in his flexibility. The Yanks have shown they can put him in the pen and then have him spot start if the need arises. Given the depletion of the bullpen, he could be valuable in a setup roll, and then come out to make a spot start if needed.

Given Pineda’s recovery from shoulder surgery, he likely should start the season in the minors. He could, for all we know, come out guns blazing in camp after a full off-season of healthy recovery. Who knows. But given what we saw from his rehab efforts, that’s not something anyone can count on. Consider him the first depth option. Nuno is essentially a depth option, not really a fifth starter on a playoff contender (though he has proven people wrong before).

With Anderson in the fold, the Yankees would have depth they could pull from both the bullpen and the minors. That’s the kind of flexibility that allows teams to endure injuries. If Nova isn’t as effective as he was in the second half, if they want to give Kuroda a breather (if he re-signs), if Sabathia gets hurt, they’ll be somewhat covered with depth.

Why it doesn’t work

It’s hard to overlook a guy who has missed, on average, more than 100 games per season in the last four years. There are players who start out as injury guys who, as they reach physical maturity, just stop getting hurt. Anderson, who turns 26 just before pitchers and catchers report, is entering the prime years of his career. He could be one of those guys.

Yet even if he is, it might not happen this year. If Anderson continues to get hurt in his age-26 season, but starts staying healthy at age 27, it does little to help the Yankees. If he spends another year mostly on the DL, they’re not going to pick up his $12 million option for 2015.

As it stands, he’s an $8 million lotto ticket, who will cost the Yankees prospects in addition to the cash. While Oakland might be eager to trade him, they’re still not going to take zeroes in return. Anderson could well fit better on a team with more room to experiment, or a team that’s not trying to sign a number of big free agents.

Whether the Yankees show interest in Anderson depends on their taste for risk. Obviously they’ll first have to address the tangible holes in their rotation. If the A’s decide to deal Anderson before they do that, the Yankees have no shot. While they don’t have to acquire players in order of need, they certainly want to focus their resources on reliably filling their 400-inning gap. After that, if they have the stomach for the risk, Anderson could be an interesting player to watch. When else does a 26-year-old, left-handed, potential No. 3 starter hit the trade market?

Details of Brian McCann's vesting option
Tuesday Night Open Thread
  • Robinson Tilapia

    He’s a lottery ticket that shouldn’t preclude the Yanks from getting two other starting pitchers. Waiting on the posting rule changes shouldn’t preclude doing this either.

    In retrospect, being in on someone like Fister would have made quite a bit of sense. Would have taken the team out of the quickly crazy-making FA market for one of the starters at a decent cost.

    • Dan G

      Agreed. Looks like WAS gave up their #5 prospect, a meh utility guy and a lefty reliever which sounds like a steal to me. Some kind of combination of Fister/Kuroda/Tanaka would go a long way to shoring up the rotation.


      • Robinson Tilapia

        This is the second time I’ve wished we were in on Fister. It’s just destined to be this way, I guess.

        Yeah, we could have brought back Kuroda, had him as the #3, and then worry about about Tanaka gets posted/not posted/Jeffrey Loria puts in max bid. The trade market doesn’t seem like a bad idea if there’s another deal like this to be had.

        • Preston

          It’s possible that the Tiger’s weren’t willing to trade him to an AL team. Otherwise I see no reason that the Yankees couldn’t have and shouldn’t have bested that package by a lot. Honestly I’d part with any non Sanchez prospect without thinking about it. And that doesn’t mean Sanchez is off the table, I’d just have to think abou it.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            I’m not begrudging the Yanks for not acquiring him. The Yanks are not going to be in on every trade, we have no clue how the trade evolved, etc.

            I’m just saying that, both times, I kinda wish the Yankees would have wound up with Doug Fister.

            I’d have been fine with dealing Austin or Slade for him. Sure. The haul they got, though, is more akin to Nunez, Ramirez, and a third part.

            • I’m a looser baby so why don’t you kill me?

              Can you imagine the reaction here if that’d been our package? OMG. Blowjobs for Cashman all around! Best trade since the Swisher heist.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                It’d have been quite the steal.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    I’d love to have a healthy Anderson. The problem is he’s never healthy.

  • Dan G

    I know RAB has had an affinity for Anderson for a while but I’m not so sure $8M + prospects for 100-200 innings of maybe elite pitching qualifies as a lotto ticket. Guess it depends on what you mean by “prospects”. Too bad PTBNL isn’t used more as a conditional pick like it is in the NFL.

    I feel like you’re looking at a less accomplished Ben Sheets, IMO (for what that’s worth). And with “189” looming, that’s a very expensive risk.

    Plus this is beyond nitpicking but I can’t tolerate 20-30 starts discussing his creepy water bottle ritual.

  • Dr. TJ Eckelberg

    Was he the one that yelled at Alex for running across the pitchers mound?

    • Dan G

      Dallas Braden

      • TWTR

        That may be the only thing he is remembered for in MLB.

        • Preston

          He also pitched a perfect game.

          • TWTR

            OK, then I will edit what I said:

            That may be the only thing I remember for in MLB.


            Having said that, I still won’t remember him for anything other than his moronic comment about A-Rod.

  • Preston

    I don’t see why trading and paying Anderson is a better bet than Pineda. Anderson’s debut was in 2009 he 175 innings, then in 2010 he threw 112, then in 2011 he threw 83, followed by 35 in 2012 and 44 in 2013. Yes he’s been good in those innings 7.13 K/9 2.4 BB/9 a 3.81 ERA and 3.56 FIP. But we already have Michael Pineda who in 2012 posted 9.11 K/9 a 2.89 BB/9 a 3.74 ERA and 3.42 FIP. We don’t have to give anything up to get him and he’ll cost the minimum. Any concern you have about moving to a hitter friendly park, innings limits or injury you have with Pineda is also present with Anderson. Mike repeatedly says that Pineda should be counted on for nothing, but there is no risk in counting on him. I think that we need to acquire two reliable starters this off-season to line up with Nova and CC (I’m rooting for Kuroda and Tanaka), but I’d rather give Pineda the shot as the fifth starter with Phelps, Warren, Nuno and Marshall as the backup plan (plus possibly Banuelos and Ramirez by the second half). Pineda has all the upside of Anderson, no more risk and doesn’t expend either money or prospects to acquire.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Agreed. I’m just thinking you can never have enough pitching and, if the price is right, you jump on the possibility here.

    • JMK

      The difference is it’s more likely that Pineda never pitches effectively in the big leagues, if he gets back there at all. Though Anderson certainly has huge injury concerns, there’s a better than not chance he’ll provide something. Will it be worth prospects and $8 million? Depends on the prospects. I’d give up a solid prospect on the chance Anderson could be a legit #3.

      • Preston

        A year after major shoulder surgery Pineda threw 40 solid innings at AAA, this is a surgery that everyone involved knew was going to take 2 seasons to recover from. I see no reason that Anderson is a safer bet to be either healthy or effective at the MLB level.

      • TWTR

        I could be wrong, but I think the worst case scenario for Pineda is as a average-ish reliever.

  • D

    Re-sign Kuroda and Colon.


    Colon costs only money and if his ERA balloons by a run to a run and a half, his 2014 ERA is only 3.65 to 4.15, good for a #3 starter in the 2013 A.L., very good for a #4 if Nova pitches like a #3, on a team with an upgraded offense.

    Spare me “he’s old” when he hs made 80 starts over the past three years, his 30 starts this year were the most since his Cy Young season, Kuroda is old, too, and Pettitte was old and coming off an injury-reduced 2013.

    • I’m a looser baby so why don’t you kill me?

      Age is less the issue than is the likelihood that we’ll lose him for 50 games (or would it be 100 now?) the next time he gets caught.

  • D

    *”has” and “injury-reduced 2012” – edit button please?

    • I’m One

      Start by using the “Reply” button to continue a thought or add onto (or refute) someone else’s thoughts/comments.

  • vinnie

    i wrote on MLBTR that the yanks should trade Banuelos for Anderson. Both coming off injuries – oakland gets a young controllable lefty and lose an exp contract and the yanks take a chance on a reclamation project who projected to be an ace

  • Bob Buttons

    Too bad we already traded away Chris Stewart.

  • Caballo Sin Nombre

    Yankees are losing 634 innings from last season from significant pitchers (Pettite, Kuroda, Hughes, Mo, Logan). If Cashman says they need to bring in 400 innings, that means he is already counting on 200+ being replaced from inside. I suppose 30 or so are coming from Nova, but those other 200 need to come from somewhere.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The 400 referred to starting pitchers.

  • Brooklyn Ed

    Billy Beane making moves like he’s playing MLB The Show. Like 6 moves within 24 hours. Could we trade Dellin Betances for Anderson???

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I think it’ll take more than that, but I’ll drive Betances over myself.

  • Dale Mohorcic

    The move by the A’s seems strange to me–Is paying Jim Johnson $10M really a better move than paying Brett Anderson $8M? Yes, Anderson has a lengthy injury history, but Johnson isn’t exactly a lights out closer.

    • Bronx Cheer

      Closers are primo trade chips at the deadline. Pray for a low ERA or decent number of saves, and turn him around for a prospect haul at the deadline if you are out of the wildcard race. If, instead, you are in the race, then bonus – you got yourselves a color by numbers bullpen with a “proven” closer.

      There is ALWAYS some team looking to overpay for bullpen help at the deadline.