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  • The Case For Brett Anderson

    Terry Ryan is acutely aware of how difficult it is to acquire front-end starting pitching. After trading Denard Span for Alex Meyer a year ago, he explained the logic behind giving up an established major-league regular for a player who hadn't yet played above Single-A, noting that with potential No. 1 starters, "Sometimes you've got to get them when they're in the early stages of their pro career or you aren't going to get them, period."

    He's right. Once a high-end pitching prospect reaches Triple-A or successfully transitions to the majors, he becomes exceedingly tough to pry away from his organization, because there's basically nothing more valuable in baseball than an inexpensive starter that you can slot near the top of your rotation.

    The Twins acquired an exceptional talent in Meyer, and paid a substantial price to do so, but also took on significant risk because the right-hander had made only 25 professional starts and was still multiple levels away from the majors. As Ryan noted, that's just the way you have to play the game unless you're looking to spend exorbitant amounts in free agency (as the Ddogers did last year with Zack Greinke) or give away a massive prospect haul (as the Royals did with James Shields).

    The only other ways to bring in a potential ace from the outside are to get creative or get lucky. The Twins have certainly accomplished the latter in the past (see: Johan Santana in the Rule 5 draft) but you can't count on that. I like creative solutions, which is why I'm very intrigued by Oakland's Brett Anderson.

    A former second-round draft pick, Anderson rose rapidly through the minor-league ranks, peaking as Baseball America's No. 7 prospect before he debuted in the majors at age 21 in 2009. In his first two seasons with the A's, the left-hander posted a 3.57 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 225/67 K/BB ratio over 287 innings. Those are superb numbers, particularly when you consider his age and experience at the time.

    Unfortunately, Anderson was limited to 19 starts in 2010 by a forearm strain, setting off a depressing string of injuries that sent his promising career into a spiral. As is all too often the case, the forearm issue proved a precursor to Tommy John, which the southpaw underwent midway through the 2011 campaign. He spent most of 2012 recovering from the surgery, returning late in the year with strong results, though an oblique strain ended his season a bit prematurely.

    In 2013, Anderson appeared poised to make his triumphant return to the scene, but after six appearances he went down with an ankle injury that later turned out to be a stress fracture in his foot, costing him nearly his entire season. He returned in the final month and pitched exclusively out of the bullpen the rest of the way.

    With only 163 innings combined over the last three years, Anderson is an enormous durability risk. It's hard to know where he's at right now because there's just not much to go on in the way of recent performance.

    He's also owed $8 million next year with a $12 million option for 2015. Given that they made the playoffs without him this season (and just signed Scott Kazmir to a two-year contract), the A's may feel motivated to move Anderson and his salary commitment. So it's no surprise that they are rumored to be floating him.

    It goes without saying that Anderson is far from a sure thing at this point. But there are a few key points to keep in mind when assessing his situation.

    1) He has already undergone Tommy John surgery, so his elbow should theoretically be good to go.

    2) The ailments that have bothered him since that surgery -- an oblique strain and a foot fracture -- are non-arm injuries that don't figure to be long-term concerns.

    3) He's still only 25.

    That last point is a big one. Anderson is a former top prospect who was at one point viewed as one of the finest young hurlers in the game, and he's still in his mid-20s. His circumstances have diminished his potential market, and while Billy Beane isn't exactly the type to give anything away, this is a situation where you could gamble on a special talent without selling the farm.

    Make no mistake... it definitely is a gamble. But with their deep farm system, their growing stable of backup-option starters and their dire need for upper-echelon pitching talent, it's one that the Twins are positioned as well as anyone to take.

    They are rumored to be one of the teams that has inquired about the southpaw, so we'll see if anything progresses next week when Ryan and Beane are both in Orlando for the Winter Meetings.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Case For Brett Anderson started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 124 Comments
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I'd deal pretty much anything not named Sano or Buxton.
      For a guy who will be gone about the time Buxton shows up and Sano has completed his 1st full year? You would trade an important part(s) of our future for a guy who might get us to a 500 record IF he can stay healty? And, that is a big IF. There is a pretty good chance you get very little for giving up 6 years of Meyer or Rosario for 2 years of BA. This would be a rather questionable decision if he were a "final piece". Such a move at this point of our rebuild would be inept.
    1. TRex's Avatar
      TRex -
      It goes without saying that Anderson is far from a sure thing at this point. But there are a few key points to keep in mind when assessing his situation.

      1) He has already undergone Tommy John surgery, so his elbow should theoretically be good to go.
      His elbow might be 'good to go', but having a ligament is not the same as a successful return from Tommy John! I am not very good with the advanced metrics, but the first thing I see is a very young lefthander who, in his only dominant season (2010), threw 40% sliders and (not surprisingly) blew out his elbow the following year. In addition, the slider accounted for the vast majority of his pitch value (slider 1.84, 2-seam 0.45, other fastball -0.5, change-up -1.5).

      Hey, this sounds familiar!

      I was becoming hopeful when I saw his 2012 stats, but became depressed when I saw that his 4 of his 6 end of the year starts were against the Twins, Indians, Red Sox and the Mariners. His final two starts, in a pennant race the A's did win, were against the Angels and Detroit and he got hammered (8 runs in 9 innings).

      Sounds really familiar!

      Finally, I see a pitcher whose BB/9 has gone from 1.76 in 2010 to 4.23 last year (OBTW, he walked 4 in those last 9 innings in 2012). That just seems like someone who either doesn't HAVE the stuff anymore, or doesn't TRUST it. It took Francisco Liriano 4 years, ~600 innings, and perhaps some bizarre "Rookie of the Year" mojo to bring his walk rate down to 3.5 (from >5 in 2011 and 2012). Is Anderson there yet? Will he be there in 2014 or 2015? If so, will he walk in 2016 just as we are ready to be competitive?

      I hate this... I started out not wanting to trade for another slider specialist, but now I have talked myself into it. Maybe Terry Ryan has talked himself into it as well, since in the news conference introducing Phil Hughes, he said something like "this situation is a lot like the Liriano situation last year, and maybe we can be on the other side of it this time"! Could it be a Freudian slip?
    1. Trevor0333's Avatar
      Trevor0333 -
      The key to identifying the right prospects to move in a deal like this is positional depth. Right now the Twins have a great deal of RHSP depth in the lower minors, 1B, middle infield & college drafted relievers in the mid minors.

      Not in a particular order:

      OF/1B --- Inf ----- SP ------ RP
      Kepler - Rosario - Meyer - Tonkin
      Walker - Escobar - May - Pressley
      Vargas - Polanco - Stewart - Bard
      --------- Santana - Berrios - Jones
      --------- Goodrum - Thorpe - Chargois
      --------- Minier - Eades - Melotakis
      --------- Micheal - Gonsalves - Williams
      -------------------- Boyd

      Its clear there is a lot of high end talent depth in the middle infield & pitching. I'd be hesitant to move a corner OF/1B with the lack of depth in prospect talent.

      I'd be hesitant to move a guy as high as Berrios but if it takes a package of Berrios, Goodrum, & Bard I would pull the trigger given the depth of talent at those positions.


      IF you like what you see out of Anderson after this year, with his prior injury history I could definitely see him signng an extension prior to his walk year.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      For a guy who will be gone about the time Buxton shows up and Sano has completed his 1st full year? You would trade an important part(s) of our future for a guy who might get us to a 500 record IF he can stay healty? And, that is a big IF. There is a pretty good chance you get very little for giving up 6 years of Meyer or Rosario for 2 years of BA. This would be a rather questionable decision if he were a "final piece". Such a move at this point of our rebuild would be inept.
      a) it isn't written in stone he'd be gone after 2 yrs.
      b) it isn't written in stone that anyone in the minor leagues is an important part of any teams future.
      c). I'm not a big believer in "rebuilding." I believe in winning sooner than later.

      It would be a risk. So is holding onto all your minor leaguers and hoping they turn into something, and that your fan base is still there if they do.

      And for the record, I don't think it would take Meyer, although I'd strongly consider it if that was the cost.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Trevor0333 View Post
      The key to identifying the right prospects to move in a deal like this is positional depth. Right now the Twins have a great deal of RHSP depth in the lower minors, 1B, middle infield & college drafted relievers in the mid minors.

      Corner OF/1B
      IMO the Twins have the right amount of starting pitching depth in the minors. As a rule of thumb, it takes 3 top starting pitching prospects to yield 1 solid major league starter. I don't see an excess. In the future I could see us having an excess of relief pitchers, but there is little demand. MI you take out Polanco and we're short. 1B is a catchall, like every other team.

      I do believe after the June draft and another half season of development of our top prospects at a higher level, the picture will be clearer. I'm very interested in seeing how our farm system and our top 10-20 prospects stack up after the draft. When we do open the farm up, I'm guessing it will be for a starting pitching, better than what we currently have to be our #1 starter come 2015.
    1. Trevor0333's Avatar
      Trevor0333 -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      a) it isn't written in stone he'd be gone after 2 yrs.
      b) it isn't written in stone that anyone in the minor leagues is an important part of any teams future.
      c). I'm not a big believer in "rebuilding." I believe in winning sooner than later.

      It would be a risk. So is holding onto all your minor leaguers and hoping they turn into something, and that your fan base is still there if they do.

      And for the record, I don't think it would take Meyer, although I'd strongly consider it if that was the cost.
      My only untouchables due to either talent level or lack of orgizational depth prospect wise would be Buxton, Sano, Meyer, Stewart, Rosario, Thorpe, Kepler, & maybe Polanco. Anyone else lets talk.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I can't believe Anderson was comped to Nolasco, he's got a MUCH higher ceiling. But he's got a ton of risk associated with him.
    1. crapforks's Avatar
      crapforks -
      Can someone explain the want to sign an extension? I think having him for $8M and a $12M team option is perfect. How stupid would his new team look if they insisted on an extension and he pitches <100 innings? That, and no player in their right mind would sign a multi-year extension based on incentives. Two full years of BA (one if he is injured again, fluke or not) should be exactly the gamble the Twins should take. I wouldn't have a problem starting with a ML bullpen piece and Kepler/Thorpe or some combination of prospects in that range. Both teams are taking a risk and the Twins can, for the first time in a while, afford a gamble such as this.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I can't believe Anderson was comped to Nolasco, he's got a MUCH higher ceiling. But he's got a ton of risk associated with him.
      wheres the like button
      , If we could get him for a decent package, it doesnt mean we have to keep him.
      It would be nice to buy low for a change , and then trade him for a bigger package if he has a good 1st Half. Un less Terry is going after some one better then Nolasco , why not buy that lottery ticket,if we could swing the deal for say Rosario, Bard and Doumit or Parmelee
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jdosen View Post
      As much as I like Glen Perkins, Minnesota guy, great on Twitter, awesome pitcher, etc., from a team building standpoint, having Glen Perkins on this team is like me having rims and tinted windows on my 2004 Impala. Totally unnecessary. I would give them Perkins and their pick of any prospect behind Thorpe in the system rankings for Brett Anderson. Although this stupid hypothetical trade can never happen now that the A's acquired Jim Johnson.

      I would be ecstatic if the Twins acquired Anderson. It would be the most exciting thing to happen to the franchise since Byron Buxton played a low-A game in Cedar Rapids on FSN. Like Nick said, I don't think the injury risk is as bad considering the TJ is out of the way and the other injuries were not arm injuries.
      I'd trade Perkins for this guy. I hate the closer role. The best pitcher in the bullpen only gets used for three outs in the 9th when there's a lead? Drives me crazy. Perkins showed a few cracks in the armor anyway.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      wheres the like button
      Down there, to your left, next to "Blog this Post".
    1. tmerrickkeller's Avatar
      tmerrickkeller -
      What do you think Beane is asking for him? What's his starting point? I think he hangs up if we don't include one of our top 10 prospects (or 2) for him. We don't have a lot of "sell-high" players on the big league roster right now.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I'd deal pretty much anything not named Sano or Buxton.
      On what do you base that much value? Cuz that's a lot to give up, for such a risk and such a price. The pedigree doesn't seem thaaat good. Curious, not nitpicky.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Remember the Porcello/Scherzer speculation a couple weeks ago? I wonder if Beane's asking price on Parker or Milone would be all that different, or if just throwing in some cash on top of a prospect package would sway him.

      edit: then again, I'm not sure either of those guys is better than Anderson.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Some team will offer a good starting pitching prospect for Anderson. I think it will be someone better than Berrios.

      If he goes for less or a package of lower prospects, it would be a sign that the A's are concerned about his health. In fact, simply being on the block may be that sign.

      As for signing an extension, I would think Anderson would want to build value towards a big contract in two years. He isn't going to sign an extension at his low point. Let's suppose he is very good and wants to test the market in two years. Worst case the twins trade him at the deadline and get a Jean Segura type prospect in return. There is no better currency at the deadline than starting pitching.
    1. Jdosen's Avatar
      Jdosen -
      Quote Originally Posted by TRex View Post
      I was becoming hopeful when I saw his 2012 stats, but became depressed when I saw that his 4 of his 6 end of the year starts were against the Twins, Indians, Red Sox and the Mariners. His final two starts, in a pennant race the A's did win, were against the Angels and Detroit and he got hammered (8 runs in 9 innings).
      If you want to judge a pitcher on 2 starts, go ahead. But I don't think it's the best idea.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jdosen View Post
      If you want to judge a pitcher on 2 starts, go ahead. But I don't think it's the best idea.
      Unfortunately Anderson has not provided much more to judge him on recently, or ever, really.
    1. mk's Avatar
      mk -
      I'm not that hIgh on Kepler so I'd start there. For me Rosario is not an option. With all the trouble the twins have had developing middle infield players, if they traded the one that worked out I would be very sad.

      back to Kepler. He plays the two positions the Twins have some high end talent. First base is manned for the next several years by a guy named Mauer... He's not going anywhere. And in the OF, the twins have a lot of talent and a decent outfielder is easier/less expensive to find in free agency than quality starting pitching.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I went and looked up Anderson's minor league numbers. He was a beast with a K rate greater than 9 and a low 2s walk rate. He had a pretty decent rookie season, but his peripherals were terrible during his injury years of 2010-2012. They looked good in limited action this year. I definitely think I'd kick the tires on this trade. The problem as I see it has more to do with guys who have legit shot of being something at a major league level being blocked. There would be no room for Worley, Diamond, Deduno, or Darnell as Gibson would likely be the last member or the rotation and Meyer would be replacing KC in a year. I think to pull this off the Twins would have to be trying to shop a guy like Darnell and perhaps something at a lower level. I'm fine with that personally, but Beane isn't one to sell low... and I keep going back to that too... Trading Anderson right now is selling low.

      Side note, but I most definitely would be taking extension if he pitched 150 innings this year. Given his lack of innings over the last few seasons, he's going to get hit with a dead arm at some point this season even if he's healthy. That's the other problem with him right now. You won't get 8M worth or production unless he puts up his minor league career numbers.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      On what do you base that much value? Cuz that's a lot to give up, for such a risk and such a price. The pedigree doesn't seem thaaat good. Curious, not nitpicky.
      I don't value minor leaguers (in particular low minor leaguers) as much as many, and want the Twins to end up with a couple top of the line starters. I think Anderson has a better chance of being one, and sooner, than does random minor leaguer somewhere down the road.

      Meyer would be a tough call, but again I think Beane wants the $8m to use this year and won't have $12m next year, while most other teams don't have $8m laying around to gamble with while the Twins do, so I don't think the price will be that high.
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