The Athletics’ season reached an early conclusion Wednesday with a 5-1 loss to the Rays in the wild-card round. The A’s defeat may have brought an unofficial end to left-hander Brett Anderson’s time with the franchise, though he hopes that’s not the case. The pending free agent told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he wants to return to the A’s in 2020. However, Anderson suggested there may not be room for him in Oakland anymore because of the collection of starters the team already has under control for next season.
Anderson, who first joined the A’s in a significant 2007 trade with the Diamondbacks, made his debut in ’09 and quickly established himself as one of the majors’ premier young starters. Unfortunately, injuries were consistently an issue for Anderson in Oakland, which ended up dealing him to Colorado prior to 2014. Anderson has pitched in the bigs for a few other teams since then (the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Cubs), with injuries remaining an all-too-frequent occurrence.
To Anderson’s credit, after an adverse 2017 divided between Chicago and Toronto, he has reestablished himself as a legitimate MLB starter over the past two years. He reunited with the Athletics on a minor league deal going into 2018, and while it went down as another injury-shortened season for Anderson, he proved to be a quality low-risk pickup for the club. Anderson wound up notching 80 1/3 innings of 4.48 ERA/4.17 FIP ball with 5.27 K/9, 1.46 BB/9 and a typically high groundball rate (55.6 percent) to help the A’s ride a patchwork rotation to a playoff spot.
Anderson’s bounce-back performance last year earned him a big league deal last offseason, when he stuck with Oakland for a guaranteed $1.5MM. Again, signing Anderson for a relative pittance worked out beautifully for the A’s. The 31-year-old Anderson put together one of his healthiest seasons ever in 2019, totaling 176 innings and logging a 3.89 ERA with 2.51 walks per nine and a 54.5 percent grounder mark. At the same time, though, Anderson struck out a paltry 4.6 hitters per nine – by far the fewest among qualified starters – while his 4.57 FIP, 4.79 xFIP and 5.17 SIERA all lagged miles behind his ERA. The soft-tossing Anderson wasn’t a Statcast favorite this year, either, ranking near the bottom of the league in the majority of its notable categories.
Skepticism seems warranted in regards to Anderson’s output this season, but it’s quite possible his grounder-heavy ways would continue to yield good results in Oakland. After all, the A’s boast three outstanding defensive infielders in third baseman Matt Chapman, shortstop Marcus Semien and first baseman Matt Olson. Still, the A’s might not welcome back Anderson, who figures to land a raise on a second straight guaranteed pact. Barring offseason changes or injuries (which they’ve dealt with much too often of late), they could easily enter next spring with Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, Jesus Luzardo, Mike Fiers, A.J. Puk and Chris Bassitt as either locks or strong contenders for rotation spots.