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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Brian Anderson

Could the former Marlin bounce back from consecutive injury-marred campaigns to reclaim some of his previous form?

Boston Red Sox v Miami Marlins Photo by Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins via Getty Images

The new year is only days away and the free agent cupboard is bare. That presents something of a problem for the Yankees, as despite their impressive outlays already this winter (Aaron Judge, Carlos Rodón, Anthony Rizzo, and Tommy Kahnle), there are still additions needed to complete the roster. Left field, third base, and shortstop present bleak outlooks when it comes to offensive projections, and while it’s unlikely he would compete for a starting role, Brian Anderson could provide depth at two of those positions.

2022 Statistics: 98 games, 383 PA, .222/.311/.346, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 90 wRC+, -6 Outs Above Average, 0.5 fWAR

Previous Contract: Settled on a one-year, $4.475 million contract to avoid arbitration with the Marlins last winter. Non-tendered following the 2022 season, making him a free agent.

Playing for the Marlins, it’s easy to see how player performances would go unnoticed. But from 2018-20, Anderson graded out as a top-25 outfielder in the league by wRC+ (115) and fWAR (7.2). He may have placed higher if not for a freak injury in his breakout campaign of 2019 when he broke his pinkie after getting hit by a pitch, ending his season a month-and-a-half early.

Beset by injures over the past two seasons, Anderson has looked a shadow of the player that started in such a promising fashion. The worst came in 2021, when his campaign was ended by a left shoulder subluxation suffered in mid-June that landed him on the 60-day IL, and eventually required surgery. 2022 represented his worst season as a big leaguer as he battled various ailments. He missed almost all of June with a back injury and a further three weeks in July and August with a recurrence of the shoulder injury. In all, Anderson appeared in just 165 out of a possible 324 games (50.8 percent), batting .233/.321/.359 with 15 home runs, 56 RBI, and a 93 wRC+.

If all of this sounds pretty bleak, well, such is the state of the free agent market after the Yankees decided to sit on the sidelines for the last week. However, there is reason for optimism that Anderson was starting to bounce back to his pre-injury abilities despite the poor top-level stats. His batted-ball metrics, including max exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate rebounded toward 2018 and 2019 levels while his walk and chase rates placed in the top half of the league.

On the defensive side, Anderson split his time between third base and right field. He exhibited 99th percentile arm strength though did grade out well below league average at third and in right. That being said, he placed in the 94th percentile in Outs Above Average at third in 2020. That ability to play on the dirt and the long grass could be useful to a Yankees squad whose depth has been tested by injury in each of the last several seasons.

It’s interesting if not a bit concerning that a Marlins team desperate for bodies to fill out the lineup decided to non-tender the player they drafted back in 2014. They have Anderson’s most up-to-date medical information and I wonder if health concerns linger, though it’s equally plausible they just wanted to save the $5.2 million he was projected to earn in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility.

Given his injury history, non-tender, and recent downturn in form, one might imagine Anderson could be signed on a cheap one-year pact if not a minor league deal. Unfortunately, we’re at that point of the offseason where this ilk of uninspiring depth player is all that’s left to analyze. But it takes all 26 members of the active roster and even all 40 members of the expanded roster to complete a successful season and the Yankees could do worse than Anderson to fulfill the next-man-up role they’ve relied upon so frequently.