Over the past few seasons the A’s have had multiple pitchers up for the title “Ace”. One pitcher on the A’s staff however is generally considered the “Ace” at the beginning of that season, but somehow loses the title without ever struggling statistically. He has the stuff to be called an “Ace”, can beat any team, at any time, anywhere, but there’s one thing he can’t seem to beat. The injury bug. That pitcher is of course A’s left-hander Brett Anderson.
Anderson came to the A’s in late 2007 along with Chris Carter, Aaron Cunningham, Carlos Gonzalez, Dana Eveland, and Greg Smith in the Dan Haren trade. The A’s also sent Connor Robertson to the Arizona Diamondbacks in that deal. Anderson was considered one of the highlights of the trade and it showed instantly. He made it through the A’s minor league system rather quickly getting called up in 2009 to the big leagues.
Interestingly enough 2009 was the year Anderson threw the most innings in a single season in his career with 175 IP. In 2010 that number dropped to 112 IP. In 2011 only 83 IP. Last season Anderson only threw 35 IP. This season he has thrown 29 IP, but he has also been in a walking boot since May and it was reported by A’s beat writer Jane Lee recently that he will be in the boot for at least another month. That means he won’t be able to rehab until at least August. Inevitably that means we may not see Anderson until September at the earliest.
In April of 2010 (the season after Anderson’s breakout campaign) the A’s signed Anderson to a 4-year $12.5 million contract including options for a fifth and sixth year with the opportunity for it to reach $31 million if the two option years were exercised. Now that the middle of the contract has been reached the A’s will need to make a tough decision that after 2009 seemed would be relatively easy. Anderson would be owed $8 million next season if his option is exercised and $12 million in 2015 if that option is exercised. There are buy-outs for either option year priced at $1.5 million.
The option next year, though pricy, seems acceptable if Anderson is given a full bill of health going into the offseason. However, if Anderson is injured again in 2014 it may be time to buy out the 2015 option year and attempt to resign Anderson at a lower price. For a small market team like the A’s paying an oft-injured pitcher like Anderson $12 million for one season is extremely risky and steep. In simpler terms you would be paying a pitcher with statistics that have taken a step back every season nearly 1/5th of your payroll. If they can buy out an option year and resign him for around $6-7 million that would be a worth while investment. Remember in 2010 the A’s paid Ben Sheets $10 million only to see him leave with an arm injury in mid-July of that season which could still be in the back of A’s GM Billy Beane‘s mind.
Brett Anderson can be a dominant pitcher when he is healthy. He throws hard and has nasty off-speed stuff. His high strikeout numbers make him a top notch pitcher in MLB. However, he can’t seem to stay on the mound long enough to be valuable. Therefore, the A’s should take their chances next season by exercising Anderson’s option. If he can’t stay healthy then they should buy out his option year in 2015 and try to resign him at a lower price.