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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Brett Anderson

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His performance is fine for a back-end starter, but he can’t stay healthy

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

While a new shortstop is assumed to be the highest priority for the Yankees this offseason, a secondary priority should always also be starting pitching depth. The rotation in 2022 is once again going to be led by Gerrit Cole, who will be followed by a hopefully healthy Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, and Jameson Taillon. Domingo Germán and Nestor Cortes are candidates to fill out the back of the rotation, but the full picture there is unclear.

On the free agent market, one candidate who could serve in that back-end role is Brett Anderson, albeit with a lot of caveats. Anderson has spent the last two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he threw 96 innings in 2021 with a 4.39 FIP and 58 strikeouts. He pitched on a one-year, $2.5 million contract for the the eventual National League Central champions.

The biggest caveat for Anderson is his health. He has a long history of injuries and has been able to pitch over 150 innings in a season only three times in a career that began in 2009. Notably, he missed almost all of September this season with a left shoulder contusion, which has to raise some eyebrows when evaluating any (left-handed) pitcher. He also didn’t pitch in their NLDS loss to the eventual champion Braves. To be fair, the injury came from being struck by a line drive, which is not an internal issue.

So while Anderson had a good season as recently as 2019, when he threw 176 innings for the Oakland Athletics with a 4.57 FIP, it’s difficult to count on even a half-season of production from Anderson at this point, especially after finishing out last season hurt.

There’s also the fact that Anderson will turn 34 in February — even if he didn’t have such a lengthy injury history, he’s at the age where you can’t exactly count on his being healthy for a full season.

Of course, there’s also the matter of his actual pitching, and that hasn’t been superlative either. Take a look at Baseball Savant’s percentile rankings for him from last season:

At least he doesn’t walk that many betters? Low velocity and lots of hard hit balls do not bode well for a successful season of pitching at Yankee Stadium half of the time.

Anderson’s pitching sample from 2021 was on the smaller side with 96 innings pitched, but he has had a tendency to put up low strikeout numbers throughout his career. In 2009, his rookie season, he had 150, his career high. In 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he had 116. Anderson’s next highest season total after that is 90, over 176 innings pitched. It’s a little too easy to imagine the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays lineups teeing off on him after facing him multiple times.

A back-of-the-rotation starter can certainly be more than good enough with a FIP in the mid-fours like Anderson, but durability is something the Yankees desperately need in their rotation behind Cole, and Anderson simply can’t provide it. Starters getting injured in the early summer is how we end up with Andrew Heaney trades. While Anderson should sign a cheap contract — maybe even a minor league deal — the Yankees would be better served elsewhere when looking for pitching depth. It’s as simple as that.