The news comes as a major blow to a Dodgers organization that has rolled the dice on several starters with injury questions. Anderson accepted the team’s $15.8MM qualifying offer at the outset of the offseason, returning on a one-year deal after his first healthy season in recent memory.
This won’t be Anderson’s first procedure for a bulging disk, as he underwent a similar surgery late in 2014. He’s missed time with other maladies before and since, of course, but his back health will now be an even greater question than it had been previously.
While there’s still hope that Anderson will contribute to the staff this year, that doesn’t mean the loss won’t tell. Fellow lefty Hyun-jin Ryu is still working back from shoulder surgery and has experienced some soreness. Brandon McCarthy remains a ways off from returning from a Tommy John procedure. Even the team’s newest MLB additions — Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir — are pitchers who have long-term health questions. Likewise, righty Frankie Montas, who profiled as a young rotation possibility as the season progresses, will miss time with rib surgery. (All that after the team blew up a prospective deal with Hisashi Iwakuma over the results of his physical.)
All that being said, it isn’t as if the club is hurting for options. Alex Wood now looks like a good bet to open in the rotation, where he’s had plenty of past success (despite coming with his own questions given his unusual delivery). Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias had their moments last year. The oft-injured Brandon Beachy is back on a minor league deal. Just-signed Cuban free agent Yaisel Sierra could potentially factor in, as could a variety of rising prospects including Jharel Cotton, Chris Anderson, Zach Lee, and top prospects Jose De Leon and Julio Urias.
Anderson, who only just turned 28, turned in 180 1/3 innings of 3.69 ERA ball last year, more than justifying the risk taken by Los Angeles. Indeed, he was even better than his results by measure of xFIP (3.51) and SIERA (3.46). But he hadn’t even logged 100 frames in a single season for the four preceding years, leading to questions about how his market would develop and aiding his decision to accept the QO.
The talented southpaw will, hopefully, have an opportunity to re-establish his health at some point later in the 2016 season. He could well provide a significant boost at that point, as might McCarthy, and it’s entirely possible that the Dodgers will have plenty of options down the stretch. As things stand, though, he’ll have to battle through another tough medical setback. Needless to say, both his future earning outlook and the possibility of the team benefiting from making a second consecutive QO have taken a hit.