Pending a physical, the Chicago Cubs have come to an agreement with lefty free-agent starting pitcher Brett Anderson. This is a one year deal worth $3.5 million with the potential to become $10 million based on incentives.
Anderson, 28, was a second-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks but began his career as a member of the Oakland Athletics. He spent five seasons there, amassing a respectable 3.81 ERA and a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. One season tossing for the Colorado Rockies with a 2.91 ERA led him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015, where he started 30 games for the first time since 2009. This past season was a different matter, however, as he underwent back surgery in March for a bulging disk which was expected to put him out 3-5 months. He had a similar procedure in 2014, which is a concern for the Cubs, but a worthy risk if he can pass a physical. This isn’t the specific reason for a physical, by the way. It is a necessary requirement of all contract deals in baseball, as well as other major sports. The real concern for Anderson comes down to durability. He has only thrown 150+ innings in two seasons: His first in 2009, and 2015 when he racked up 180 innings pitched.
But when he’s healthy, Anderson can be very good. Good pitchers win when they allow the defense to do their jobs. And how do you accomplish that? Statistics will tell you that it’s predominantly with ground balls. He gives up more than double the ground balls than he does pitches that get hit into the air and that leads to quick outs, double plays, and saved arms.
Anderson has also developed a few pitches over the years after coming into the league only tossing a four-seam fastball and slider. He has added a sinker, which he relies on heavily, and a curveball. Anderson also throws a change-up, but he’ll rely heavily on a sinker-slider combo to ring up some strike outs.
All in all, this is nothing short of a gamble, but the Cubs have shown over time that when properly analyzed and treated, gambles can pay off. Pending that physical, we’ll find out in a few weeks just how good a payoff it will be.