Anderson, 32, was one of the best relievers in the league over 2019 and 2020. Splitting his time between the Marlins and Rays, he pitched 81 1/3 innings over those two campaigns. In that time, he had a combined 2.77 ERA, along with absurd rate stats, striking out 42.2% of batters faced while walking just 6.5% of them.
Anderson has faced his share of struggles over the past two years, however. He was diagnosed with a partial UCL tear during Spring Training in 2021. He made just six appearances before going on the IL and never returned. He underwent a UCL brace procedure in October of that year and didn’t return until August of 2022. Upon his return, the Rays kept him in the minors until plantar fasciitis ended his season.
Anderson was eligible for arbitration this year, with MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projecting a contract of $845K, just a smidge above next year’s $720K league minimum. Despite that modest price point, the Rays were facing a roster crunch and decided to move on from Anderson. He was placed on waivers this week and cleared. Since he has over three years of MLB service time, he was eligible to elect free agency and did so.
For Atlanta, this is a low-risk, high-reward play. Anderson isn’t costing much, and would be huge value if he can rediscover his previous form. It’s possible that the injuries prevent him from reaching his previous heights, but in that scenario, they will have lost a small amount of money in MLB terms. If the gamble pays off, there will be long-term benefits, since Anderson could be retained for two more seasons via arbitration.
It’s possible Atlanta is facing an offseason of tight spending, despite five straight NL East titles. The club has never paid the competitive balance tax before, but their slew of contract extensions have pushed them close to the brink. The lowest CBT threshold for 2023 is $233MM, and the club is currently at $228MM, in the estimation of Roster Resource. It’s possible that the club is willing to pay the tax for the first time in order to retain Dansby Swanson at shortstop or else replace him. In the meantime, they’ve found a low-cost flier that could potentially help their bullpen.