After the Dodgers’ eventful Winter Meetings, they made another move on Monday in reportedly signing Brett Anderson to a 1-year, $10 million deal. He could earn up to $4 million in incentives.
Huh? Seriously, I didn’t see this coming, and I don’t think anyone else did. This is the definition of “boom or bust.” Anderson, 26 (!), was a former top prospect with the Diamondbacks. He was traded to the A’s for old friend Dan Haren. Anderson’s best days came in Oakland, as he posted a 3.6 WAR in 2009 and was a top starter in 2010 when he posted a 2.80 ERA and 3.21 FIP. The only thing is, he doesn’t stay healthy.
That’s a ton of injury history for a guy who has been in the majors since 2009. That’s the risk associated with Anderson. He has undeniable top-of-the-rotation stuff, but he’s extremely fragile. Brandon McCarthy looks like Roy Halladay (pre-injury) compared to Anderson.
Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times tweeted and said the Dodgers view Anderson as a rotation guy, which makes sense, since they’re paying him $10 million. But it’s still a head-scratcher. The Dodgers, despite the rotation being seemingly full, probably need another starter just in case Anderson, McCarthy and/or Hyun-jin Ryu have any significant injures. Sorry, I’m not sold on Mike Bolsigner to fill in for any of them.
If Anderson were to be in a true swingman role (the role Paul Maholm was supposed to play last year), then that might be a way to keep him healthy and maximize his value. His career-high in innings pitched is 175 1/3, and he’s thrown 206 1/3 innings … in his last four seasons. That is definite cause for concern.
One thing is for sure: the new Dodger front office loves ground balls. Clayton Kershaw increased his ground ball rate in 2014, Zack Greinke and Ryu are 47-48 percent ground ball guys and McCarthy got a career-high 52.6 ground balls in 2014. Anderson outdoes them all, as he’s posted at least a 61 percent ground ball rate in the last two seasons and has a 55.4 percent rate for his career. This plays into the Dodgers’ new philosophy of strong infield defense. Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins and Juan Uribe are going to be busy in 2015.
When healthy, Anderson has a good low-90s MPH fastball (90.7 MPH 2-seamer), a low-80s slider and a fringy curveball and changeup. But based on his FanGraphs pitch values, he lives on his slider (38.2 runs above average for his career). That could be why he has such a substantial injury history.
The Dodgers’ training staff hasn’t changed, so the fact Stan Conte is in charge of approving Anderson’s physical is scary. I’m inclined to have faith in the new braintrust, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this were to fail miserably. Luckily, he’s only on a 1-year deal, so the only thing the Dodgers are risking in this deal is money. That’s a big deal for most teams, but obviously not the Dodgers.
I assume this takes the Dodgers out of any potential Max Scherzer or James Shields signing, and (for now) a Cole Hamels trade (although, there are some creative ways the Dodgers could land that SoCal native, but let’s just leave that alone). I’ll say this: I like signing Anderson for $10 million and one year much more than giving Shields anything close to what he desires on the free agent market in terms of years and dollars.
Despite losing Dan Haren this offseason, the Dodgers have added McCarthy and Anderson to their Twitter game. That is really strong. Case in point:
@BMcCarthy32 I'm going to need you to personally attempt to photoshop yourself in a Dodger uniform.
— Brett Anderson (@BrettAnderson35) December 12, 2014
That was from three days ago. This is gonna be fun.
Now, go sign Chad Billingsley to an incentive-laden contract and perhaps the rotation could be set — for now.