Since losing eighty percent of their Opening Day starting rotation, the Yankees and GM Brian Cashman have been relentless in their search for superior starters. The team that began the year with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda currently employs Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy, David Phelps, Shane Greene, and Chris Capuano in the rotation. Bolstered by Cashman's acquisition of McCarthy, that group has performed well enough, but there could obviously be improvements. Sabathia and Nova are gone for the season, Tanaka's UCL rehab is far from certain, and though he's set to begin a rehab assignment on Sunday, Pineda is a wild card who has made four starts in three years with the team due to injury.
There's risk in assuming a safe recovery, and it's hard to blame Cashman for seeking upgrades over the former long reliever Capuano and the rookie Greene, who was shaky in Triple-A before putting together a few solid starts at the major league level. Eleven different pitchers have made at least one start for them, and according to ESPN's Buster Olney, if Cashman has his druthers, then the number will jump to twelve:
The Yankees are picking through the second tier of starting pitchers and one guy they've discussed is Brett Anderson. http://t.co/nSnvNnS5U1— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 30, 2014
Anderson would fit the Yankees in a lot of ways: Possible high ceiling; moderate financial risk they can absorb; has had success in AL.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 30, 2014
As far as secondary options go, Anderson would appear to make plenty of sense. He's been in the league for six years so it seems like he's older than he is, but he's a lefty who made his MLB debut while quite young and is actually only 26. He has made six starts for the Rockies in 2014, pitching to a 3.24 ERA, 3.61 FIP, and he's induced an impressive 60.4% ground ball rate. He's not a guy who will strike a lot of people out, but he doesn't walk too many people and he doesn't give up many fly balls (23.4%) or home runs, either (0.76 HR/9 for his career, just one allowed this year). He missed about three months due to injury, but that injury can be blamed on National League rules--the career American Leaguer broke his finger on a bunt attempt. Cool story, NL.
Anderson should be a familiar since he once appeared to be the budding star of the Oakland Athletics' starting rotation for years to come. Originally drafted by the Diamondbacks in the second round of the 2006 draft, he was dealt during the 2007-08 off-season along with Carlos Gonzalez to the A's in an eight-player deal centered around Dan Haren. Anderson made the A's Opening Day rotation in 2009 and started his MLB debut at age 21. He made 30 starts, pitched to a 4.06 ERA (94 ERA-), 3.69 FIP (87 FIP-), and posted 3.6 fWAR, impressing the league enough to earn a sixth place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Since then, the unfortunate story with Anderson has been injuries. He missed a couple months in 2010 with elbow strain and inflammation, which limited him to 19 starts, albeit 19 good starts (2.80 ERA-, 3.21 FIP-). Thirteen decent starts into his 2011 season, his elbow was hurting him again and he ultimately had to get Tommy John surgery. He didn't pitch again until late in the 2012 campaign, when he joined the A's on their amazing stretch run to catch the then-AL West-leading Rangers. Anderson dazzled down the stretch, showing no ill effects from the surgery by pitching to a 2.57 ERA and 2.72 FIP as the A's caught the Rangers during their last series of the season and won their first division title in six years. Anderson made one playoff start, shutting the Tigers out over six innings on two hits, winning his start despite the A's eventual series loss. Anderson missed most of 2013 with a stress fracture in his foot and by the time he returned to the A's, his starting rotation spot had been claimed and he finished out the year in the bullpen. Given his wealth of starting options and the prospect of paying Anderson for his third year of arbitration, GM Billy Beane elected to deal Anderson to the Rockies last December in exchange for Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen.
Obviously, Anderson is another guy who is a bit of question mark given his injury history, though I think his 2014 plights can be dismissed without too much concern since it was an injury sustained while batting. As Olney noted, he would be an intriguing option since he's not much owed much more for this year and his contract includes a $12 million team option for 2015. If Anderson was acquired and pitched well down the stretch for the Yankees, he would be an easy guy to plug into the 2015 rotation, too. If he bombs, the Yankees could buy him out for just $1.5 million. Sure, he's a mystery due to his health, but sometimes teams have to take a chance on a guy if they don't want to surrender too much in terms of prospects. Young with talent and lefthanded pitching half the starts in Yankee Stadium has long been a recipe for success on this team, and the Yankees have every right to be scouting Anderson.
That being said, I'm not optimistic about a deal getting done since Rockies management has asked for ludicrously high prices in trade talks regarding their players in recent years. They wanted top-flight young starter Kevin Gausman from the Orioles in exchange for the mediocre Jorge de la Rosa, and when they had Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010, they asked for almost all of the Yankees' top prospects. FOX Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal also reported this morning that the Rockies aren't interested in dealing him and they want to sign him to an extension because of course they do. The hunch here is that if the Rockies even dangle Anderson, they will ask for far too much for Anderson and get nothing from anyone because the Rockies are a poorly-run organization. Oh well.