2015 statistics: 31 G, 180.1 IP, 3.69 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 100 ERA+, 1.7 WAR
Age on Opening Day 2017: 29
Perhaps more than anything else, the Yankees need to improve their rotation ahead of the 2017 season. It’s just too bad that starting pitching is nowhere to be found on the free agent market. Rich Hill is arguably the best of the bunch (somehow), but he’s bound to get a contract too big to make a deal worthwhile. That’s why it makes sense to go after a low-risk/high-reward player like Brett Anderson, who won’t require much to bring into the fold.
For as long as Anderson has been a major league pitcher, he has been considered one of the better arms in the league. It’s just that his body has done a pretty terrible job of holding him together long enough to live up to his promise. He pitched over 100 innings in 2009 and 2010, his first two years in the bigs, and then never reached that mark again until 2015. That year may have been his best since his rookie season, and it certainly was the most he ever pitched, but it wasn’t the start of a new trend for him.
After one healthy season, things reverted back to the way they always were and Anderson crumbled in 2016 after undergoing back surgery to correct a bulging disc. He returned to pitch a few innings in September but was a non-factor. Now, after years of back injuries, finger strains, Tommy John surgery, and a particularly nasty sprained ankle, the left-hander is out there on the open market just waiting for someone to take a chance on him like the Dodgers did before the 2015 season. This year, maybe it should be the Yankees.
And why not? The Yankees need pitching—of any kind and from anywhere—and after the disastrous season he just had, even an inflated market value for starters won’t (or at least shouldn’t) lead to a deal in excess of the $15.8 million Anderson made this season. It’s also entirely possible that Brian Cashman already has the lefty on his radar as a guy he’s had his eye on for years now. There were rumors that the Yankees had taken interest in Anderson when he first hit free agency in 2014, and if you’ve paid attention to the Yankees GM over the years, you’d know that Brian Cashman always gets his man, no matter how long it takes.
Because of where the market is at the moment, and where both Anderson and the Yankees are right now, I think a deal is in the realm of possibilities. That doesn’t mean they should be tripping over themselves to sign him, because after all, the odds of him being healthy and productive are very much against them. The market may be weak enough to prevent him from settling for a minor league deal, but he won’t be making bank this year either. Instead, the Yankees could theoretically sign him to an incentive-laden contract that will rise dramatically the more starts he makes.
This deal will work well for him because he would get a nice base salary, plus he’d be betting on himself to earn more. It would be good for the Yankees too because, even if Anderson can’t stay healthy for more than a few months, it might be long enough to get by before they add someone new at the trade deadline. This organization is also strapped with enough young talent, so we should see the likes of Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns get a chance. Don’t expect Anderson to hold the rotation together, he just needs to bridge the gap for as long as he can until alternatives arrive.