So the 2016 Dodgers season is getting off to a robustly Dodgers start so far, with Frankie Montas having rib surgery, Josh Ravin breaking his forearm in a car accident, Hyun Jin Ryu‘s debut being postponed until May, and now Brett Anderson needing back surgery. The first two injuries were relatively inconsequential to the 2016 team, and everybody knew Ryu was probably never going to be ready by Opening Day, so those news items passed by relatively quietly. Anderson, however, was being counted on to be a solid member of the 2016 rotation, and it’s his injury that has caused people to lose their minds.
Coming into 2016, I was expecting Anderson to miss time here and there but generally be a quality #4 or #5 starter for the team while potentially posting numbers like a #3. Thus, I do understand why everybody is all doom-and-gloom about the news, as it put me in quite the negative mood to start the baseball season as well. However, the fans and writers now pretending like Anderson’s qualifying offer should be included as evidence on the charge that the front office doesn’t know how to put together a rotation baffles me.
The hot takes following news of the injury essentially boiled down to claims that Anderson was not worth his $15.8 million deal and that the Dodgers were foolishly not prepared for an Anderson injury. Those criticisms don’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and it apparently didn’t make a lot of sense to say at the time either, since most of the hindsight critics that emerged yesterday made the Anderson qualifying offer sound downright obvious when it was being discussed at the time.
Nobody spoke up at the time about the qualifying offer, because coming off a year in which he was paid $12.4 million after having pitched just 204.1 innings from 2011-14, giving Anderson a raise of just over $3 million on an equally short contract after he posted a 3.69 ERA in 180.1 innings was exactly common sense.
That was especially true in the current market, where even a back-end starter like Anderson could’ve banked eight figures if he had a history of health.
Brett Anderson – 3.69 ERA/3.94 FIP/3.46 SIERA – 1 Year/$16 Million
The point of the comparison isn’t to suggest Anderson deserved a better contract or that those guys were poor signings, the point is that even pitchers with skill sets worse than Anderson were banking high eight-figure contracts in this current free-spending market. Thus, being able to pay Anderson about his market rate and minimizing risk to a single year, while also providing more rotation upside than other options who required both long commitments and a ton of money made complete sense.
There was always an injury risk with Anderson that suppressed his value, I think everybody agrees on that point, but when one looks at the inflating salaries of the current market for starting pitchers, suggesting that making Anderson a qualifying offer was a mistake is nothing but hindsight at its finest.
Speaking of that injury risk, to say the Dodgers didn’t plan on needing to compensate for Anderson’s health history is equally foolish. To the contrary, the acquisitions made seem to have indicated that there was absolutely an expectation that they would need quality rotation options seven or eight or nine pitchers deep at some point.
The part that hurts in regards to Anderson’s injury is not the fact that he got injured, but the timing of it. If Anderson even made it through two months of the season, he could have this happen and it wouldn’t have been much of an issue at all with Ryu and Brandon McCarthy potentially healthy and Jose De Leon and Julio Urias potentially ready for their debuts.
Hell, even as it is now, the drop from Anderson to Mike Bolsinger for a dozen starts or so shouldn’t be terribly significant. But it does chip away at the rotation’s depth until mid-season rolls around, and that allows plenty of opportunity for disaster. Yet for whatever problems with the rotation the Dodgers have, it’s certainly not because they didn’t plan for the possibility that Anderson would falter. The plan was and is there, it’s just a shame they have to start implementing it in March.
Look, as somebody who advocated that the Dodgers “overpay” Zack Greinke — for the exact reason that a team can afford to mess around with the back of the rotation if they have two reliable aces in tow — I understand there are actual concerns and worries about how the front office is going about surrounding Clayton Kershaw with talent. And if you have problems with that, then focus the criticism there, because reaching to paint Brett Anderson’s contract as the problem just makes the people who do it look desperate and foolish.