If you had said to me last year Brett Anderson would be given a qualifying offer following the 2015 season, I’d have said he must have pitched well.
He did, and he’s looking to cash in on that. He’s only 28 years old, even if it seems like he’s in his mid-30s. He throws consistently in the 90s and is baseball’s best pitcher at inducing ground balls. He doesn’t miss as many bats as one would like, but he shows some good command and control. He isn’t flashy, but he’s consistent.
Let’s look at some possible destinations for the free agent.
The Braves hold the No. 3 overall selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. Because of that (and every other team in the Top 10), they would forfeit their next-highest pick, which is their second-round selection (No. 39). That will change when qualifying offer players start signing elsewhere.
They have a solid 1-2-3 of Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran and Matt Wisler. Mike Minor is a guy who exists, but he had shoulder surgery. Being able to slot in a guy like Anderson could help stabilize their rotation and allow them to develop their prospects and not rush them. If they were to nab him on a 2-year deal, that would allow guys like Tyrell Jenkins and Lucas Sims to get some more seasoning. It remains to be seen if the Braves will spend this offseason, but adding a veteran like Anderson could help the young players in the long run. Also, having baseball’s best ground ball pitcher having Andrelton Simmons playing behind him seems like a nice match.
Chances he signs: 20 percent
San Diego Padres
The Padres, despite their myriad of trades last offseason, finished in fourth place in the NL West and are picking at No. 8 overall. They gave a qualifying offer to Ian Kennedy, and assuming he doesn’t accept it and signs elsewhere, they’ll have an extra pick to play with.
There are always rumors they’re looking to deal a pitcher — Andrew Cashner or Tyson Ross — and if they do pull the trigger this offseason, they’ll need someone to pitch those innings. Anderson’s profile would play up quite well in Petco Park. He actually pitched a lot better away from Dodger Stadium in 2015, so pitching in a cavernous park such as Petco could be a great fit.
The Padres don’t have a lot of pitchers on the farm who are close to the majors, so that’s also a factor if the Padres decide to sign him. They’d have to surrender the 44th pick, which wouldn’t be a huge price to pay for (in theory) at least 150 quality innings.
Chances he signs: 50 percent
Word is the Tigers will target more mid-tier free agents than top guys, so that could put them in the market for Anderson. They did acquire two young lefties in the David Price trade (Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris) and one in the Yoenis Cespedes trade (Michael Fulmer) whom they figure to give a shot, but after Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez — both shells of their former selves — there isn’t much depth.
They’d have to give up the 45th overall selection to sign Anderson. It might not be prudent for that team to do so, but they do still have some pieces to contend. If they get a little creative to upgrade the rest of the roster, signing Anderson might be in play. But with the three young pitchers, I’d say it’s a long shot.
Chances he signs: 5 percent
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have some talent, but they need upgrades around the diamond. They’re probably going to lose Jeff Samardzija (to whom they gave a qualifying offer) and John Danks is, somehow, still an MLB pitcher. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana is a pretty good 1-2, with Carlos Rodon looking to improve on his solid rookie campaign.
If they were to sign Anderson, they’d need to be in a bit of a “win-now” mode. They have some offensive talent, but there are areas in which they can upgrade. Signing Anderson would cost the 46th pick. The organization has been more prudent with its draft picks of late, so I don’t think they’d be too eager to give it up for Anderson. If they did, they’d be able to develop the likes of Carson Fulmer and and Spencer Adams at their own pace. Also, the fact their Top 4 starters are all left-handed, having an all lefty rotation probably isn’t too appealing to them.
Chances he signs: 1 percent
Toronto Blue Jays
I update the Blue Jays’ depth chart for FanGraphs. When I was updating it last week, there was a severe lack of starting pitchers. Price is probably not going to come back, while Estrada (qualifying offer) and Buehrle are also free agents. Estrada might come back by accepting the offer.
They don’t have much on the minor-league front anymore. They traded Boyd and Norris to get Price and sent Jeff Hoffman to the Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki. As one of MLB’s top teams in 2015, they’d have to give up the 26th overall pick. At this point, they need innings from pitchers. R.A. Dickey is their workhorse starter, while Marcus Stroman is their best starter. He had a solid postseason run, but missed almost all of the 2015 season with a torn ACL. Odds are he’ll be good in 2016, but can he be the 200-inning pitcher the Jays need? That’s why Toronto will likely sign two or three starters this offseason. Anderson would fit pretty well with Tulowitzki, Ryan Goins and Josh Donaldson playing behind him.
Chances he signs: 50 percent
Kansas City Royals
The World Series champs could use another pitcher, as Johnny Cueto and Chris Young are free agents. I could actually see both of them coming back, but if they don’t, they could be in need of some innings-eaters. It was a formula that worked relatively well for them this season. Having Anderson throwing in front of Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, etc., could be beneficial for him.
On the farm, Kyle Zimmer is the best pitching prospect closest to the majors, but he has dealt with a lot of injuries in his pro career. He needs to be added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, so that could influence the pitchers the Royals consider bringing in via free agency. Also, the less of Jason Vargas in the Royals’ rotation, the better for KC.
They’d lose the 27th overall pick, but this team is set-up to succeed for a few years. If they don’t want to splurge on a big-name free agent, Anderson might be a good fit for them.
Chances he signs: 30 percent
Other teams that might have fringy interest in him (what they’d have to give up): Minnesota (17), San Francisco (19)
Anderson can blow all this up by being the first player to accept the qualifying offer under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. But pitching is at such a premium that if he goes on the open market and only gets a 2-year deal at $24-28 million, it might be worth it rather than having to pitch on another 1-year deal like he did in 2015.
I see the best fit being San Diego, while Toronto needs him the most. The Dodgers probably have interest in bringing him back, but on their terms. The Royals would be an interesting fit for Anderson’s services, while the White Sox and Braves are much less likely.
Anderson had a good season for the Dodgers. If he is able to net them a supplemental first-rounder, then his signing last offseason will look that much better.