Assuming Wei-Yin Chen leaves in free agency, the Baltimore Orioles are going to be in the market for a starting pitcher to fill out their rotation. Attempting to keep up in the hitter-heavy American League East with a rotation that could include both Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright, depending on what the front office decides to do with Miguel Gonzalez, a pitcher who struggled mightily at times in 2015 and could be non-tendered, does not seem like the best course of action.
Chen seems as good as gone, and the Orioles should look to fill his hole with external options, and there are plenty on the open market. In a rotation filled with home run-prone starters, in one of the most powerful divisions in baseball, the Orioles need an injection of groundball pitching, something that is missing from their patchwork rotation.
Enter Brett Anderson.
After four years dealing with injury from 2011 to 2014, Anderson, a former top prospect with the Oakland Athletics, turned in 31 very good starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015. This season was his first logging over 100 innings since 2010, the year the injury bug first bit Anderson. When he went down in 2010, Anderson had a 2.80 ERA in 19 starts.
Even as Anderson worked through injuries, there were flashes of potential. He worked to a 2.57 ERA in six starts in 2012, and a 2.91 ERA in eight starts with the Colorado Rockies in 2014. Over a full year with the Dodgers in 2015, Anderson had a 3.69 ERA in 180.1 innings and went 10-9.
Anderson is now a free agent, and it is unclear if he will return to the Dodgers. With Zack Greinke becoming a free agent, and more attractive options on the market, the Dodgers may allow Anderson to walk. Anderson will be 28 entering the 2016 season. He may finally be healthy, but the Dodgers may be willing to get out of the Brett Anderson business while the getting is good.
There will be the qualifying offer to deal with for a team like the Orioles. Baltimore swallowed that pill two years ago when the team signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a deal that is looking like neither a win or a total loss at this point. Jimenez got four years and $50 million from the Birds. Anderson may command an even higher salary than that, given his age. Injury concerns could weigh as well, however.
What exactly would the Orioles be getting in Anderson? He is an innings-eater when healthy. The left-hander can be counted on to go six innings every time out, while limiting walks and generating groundballs. Two things I said in that past sentence should give the Orioles reason to at least look at Anderson if he gets away from the Dodgers — left-handed and groundballs.
Assuming the Orioles lose Chen, the entire rotation in 2015 could be right-handed. A left-hander would be a nice element to have. The Orioles rotation gave up 128 homers in 2015, ahead of only the Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers in that regard. The peripherals had predicted for years that pitchers like Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez were pitching over their head, especially in the preventing-home-runs department. The Orioles could not continue defying the odds this year. The Toronto Blue Jays, especially, hammered Orioles pitching. The Jays did that to everyone, but a pitcher who throws a heavy sinker like Anderson could at least help to neutralize Toronto.
On the open market, Anderson is likely a $13-million pitcher. A deal similar to the three-year, $39-million signed by Francisco Liriano last year sounds reasonable for a pitcher with an injury-riddled past. That sounds doable for the Orioles, but the big issue with Anderson will be the draft pick compensation. Baltimore may be forced to accept that loss to address its pitching problems. There are other teams that may have the luxury on passing on a pitcher with a draft pick tied to him. The Orioles are not one of those teams. Brett Anderson can be an answer in Baltimore if the Dodgers elect to move on.