Brett Anderson has officially become a free agent and we wonder if it worthwhile for the Toronto Blue Jays to consider retaining his services
The Toronto Blue Jays look to need a starting pitcher. Brett Anderson is one. They are somewhat familiar with each other since he finished the 2017 season making seven starts for the club. But, does that mean that a return is likely, or even worth considering? That’s what we aim to figure out.
So, before he came to Toronto, the book on Anderson is that he has been injury prone and any team that signed him would be attempting to catch lightning in a bottle. It wasn’t that he isn’t good, it’s that he hasn’t been healthy. So, expectations were decidedly tempered. In 2015, Anderson tossed 180 innings, but hasn’t even broken 100 since 2010. So, it makes sense that no one knew what the Blue Jays were going to get from the player who started the year with the Cubs.
According to Fangraphs, Anderson put up an ERA of 6.34 between his two clubs (Toronto and Chicago) to go with a xFIP of 4.27. Baseball Reference shows that his Blue Jays ERA was 5.13, which is not great, but better than his overall number would lead you to believe. The real problem for Anderson was the number of hits he gave up. In 33.1 innings in Toronto, he gave up 39 hits, which doesn’t sound like much, but it is good for a 10.5 H/9 mark, which…yikes. That’s not going to lead to a lot of successful starts.
But, can we really judge Anderson on this? For starters, he saw a BABIP of .364, which is high, even though he has always seen a relatively high number in this area. One could argue that he was a victim of luck, but if he’s always seen a high mark, so can we really call it hitters’ luck? There are other signs that maybe he is going to run into trouble. According to Brooks Baseball, Anderson’s repertoire profile says that he gets a lot of groundballs off his slider, curve and sinker, but his fastball has little movement and his change up isn’t getting whiffs the way you would hope. If that is the case (because his pitch usage would match this profile), his ground ball rate should be good. In 2017, he saw 49.2% GB. For comparison, his 2015 season saw a rate of 66.3%! If he can bring this number closer to the 2015 version, things could be much different for him.
Here’s the thing, whichever option the Blue Jays decide to go with as their 5th starter, you have to remember that it is a 5th starter. These spots in the rotation do not go to the likes of Yu Darvish. The only way the Blue Jays are not targeting a typical 5th starter, with 5th starter numbers, is because they’ve got their eye on something better and the 5th spot gets filled by one of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ being bumped down the rotation. The players to bump one of these down a step cost money. They are not exactly easy to procure. There are some out there like Darvish and Alex Cobb, but they’re not going to come cheaply since they are the cream of this year’s crop.
If we know anything about the Blue Jays front office, while they’re not afraid to sign semi-expensive deals, they are also not in the habit of blowing money just to land big fish. They’ll look to spend wisely. It could be that they feel that Brett Anderson is a worthwhile gamble. You know some team will take a shot on him, hoping that the end of his 2017 season is a sign of him turning things around. He won’t come with the same price tag as others. Heck, he should come in rather affordably. His injury history speaks much more loudly than his current showing, which makes him
cheap a gamble still.
But, his time in Toronto allowed the team to get a look at him for next season and really get to know him and his health. They have the inside track on whether he is someone to take a chance on. And, he seemed to have enjoyed his time with the Blue Jays, particularly in one of his decent starts:
It's crazy what happens when you aren't tinkered with and can just go out and pitch
— Brett Anderson (@BAnderson3737) September 4, 2017
Obviously, it makes sense that the Blue Jays would let him go out there and be himself. They want to see what that is. It just so happens he tweeted this right after his first start for Toronto and he went 6 innings, giving up 7 hits, 3 ER on 2 HR. It wasn’t a perfect outing by any means, but was a bit of an ‘I told you so’ moment for Anderson. And, it was a moment where he showed Toronto (and everyone else) that he very well can contribute to a big league rotation. Now, he also had an outing where he gave up 8 ER in 1.1 innings. But, that was not the norm. On the whole, Brett Anderson gave the Blue Jays exactly what a 5th starter should. If you expect more, you might need to reevaluate you criteria for a 5th starter. Look around baseball at 5th starters and you’ll see.
Anderson is likely not a starter that teams are going to rush out to sign. He’s not the hot commodity this winter. But, he very well could be a decent one. He’ll be 30 when the 2018 season starts and the argument can be made that he has upside. Assuming health, he looks to be a big league starter. He certainly has shown that. What his 2018 deal looks like is anyone’s guess. At the very least, he will see a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. He could be on someone’s depth charts waiting for a call up, though he’ll likely hold out for more. And, don’t be surprised to see him get more than that. And and, don’t be surprised to see it be from Toronto.
Brett Anderson may not be the starter you want, but he could be one the Blue Jays need.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.