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Brett Anderson Sent to Colorado

December 10, 2013

The A’s finally did what they had pledged to do and have sent left-handed pitcher and 2013 Opening Day starter Brett Anderson packing to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for former top prospect southpaw Drew Pomeranz and right-handed MiLB pitcher Chris Jensen (the A’s also are sending cash to Colorado). The rumors of Anderson being on the move had been around a while, and with so many left-handed pitchers already on the MLB roster, if Anderson wasn’t about to secure a rotation spot, it seemed likely the A’s might look to save some cash and deal him. I, for one, am less than thrilled about the return.

Though I have been highly critical of the praise heaped upon Anderson, he is very young and if he can stay healthy (a huge if) has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter. I certainly did not expect the haul that a David Price would receive, or anything near what a very durable James Shields got last year, but to me this is sort of like getting a whole bunch of nothing. For all the talk from me of Anderson not having much of a track record and the assessment of him being more on potential than results, no one could be more similar in that description than Pomeranz. Pomeranz, the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Cleveland Indians out of Ole Miss (where his $2.65M signing bonus represented the largest of any college pitcher in that year’s draft), was the centerpiece of the trade that brought Ubaldo Jimenez to the shores of Lake Erie. The 25-year-old Pomeranz didn’t deliver the return the Rockies front office was hoping for as his entire MLB career was spent with Colorado and in three years he mustered together 30 starts in 34 appearances for a 5.20 ERA in 136 2/3 innings with a kinder 4.78 FIP care of 7.6 K/9, 4.6 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9. Last year was particularly dreadful in Denver for him as he went four starts and also had all four of his MLB relief appearances across 21 2/3 innings of 7.9 K/9, 7.9 BB/9 and 1.7 HR/9 baseball for an awful 6.23 ERA well in line with his 6.46 FIP. In Colorado Springs, Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate he fared better with a 4.20 ERA and healthy 3.13 FIP backed by 10.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in 85 2/3 innings of work. While he has pitched well in MiLB ball, MiLB and MLB ball are different and it is about time the results began to translate.

Anderson has not been brilliant either, his career has spanned five seasons in Oakland during which he has made just 73 starts and pitched a mere 450 2/3 innings. He has put up a respectable 3.81 ERA with a slightly better 3.56 FIP. He has a solid 7.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9. The biggest issue for Oakland, and now the Colorado Rockies is that he has pitched just 450 2/3 innings in these five seasons mostly due to how brittle he is. Unlike Pomeranz whose ERA and FIP agree, Anderson’s in 2013 (his worst MLB year) disagree quite strongly as he posted an awful 6.04 ERA, his FIP much higher at 3.85 as he was clearly the victim of an irregularly high .359 BABIP and abysmal 61.5% strand rate, with 9.3 K/9 and a career worst 4.2 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 in his 44 2/3 innings on the hill. But there is a lot that needs to be reconciled between Anderson’s proven ability to pitch and lack of proven ability to stay healthy and Pomeranz’ thus far proven inability to perform and that person is not the throw-in Jensen.

Jensen has made no prospects lists. Jensen was drafted out of the University of San Diego in the 6th round of the 2011 draft by Colorado. He began his professional career with the Tri-City Dust Devils of the Northwest League moving up a level each season before spending last year with the Modesto Nuts of the Cal League. In his MLB career he has thrown to a 4.22 ERA, with 7.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9 in 334 2/3 innings all of his 61 appearances being starts. Last year with Modesto he threw to a 4.55 ERA in 152 1/3 innings posting peripherals of 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 for a better but not really eye-popping 3.56 FIP.

The purpose of this trade isn’t entirely clear unless viewed solely as a salary dump, where the A’s could recoup some talent in return. To me Anderson was worth more, especially compared to the hauls that both Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez net the A’s. Anderson shouldn’t be on par with them by any means, but Cahill certainly wasn’t worthy of an ace-like starter yet got one, and Gonzalez returned many useful pieces. The A’s biggest need in my mind was perhaps a middle infield upgrade allowing the A’s to move Alberto Callaspo (a far better salary dump prospect to me than that of Anderson) or a deal that would net the A’s some prospects that maybe we high risk but that could be used to replenish a farm system that is very weak in its highest levels. This trade did neither. In trading one 25-year old lefty for another, the A’s merely changed the risk from good with injury to simply a risk of can this guy pitch at the MLB level? Furthermore, if he can the A’s don’t really have any clear destination for him with an already full rotation. Remember also, the A’s didn’t need to trade Anderson. His $8M salary wasn’t gumming up the works, and if they felt as though it was the A’s could have waited until the inevitable Spring Training injury made some team overpay (in fairness Billy Beane may have been afraid of a Spring Training injury befalling Anderson himself which wouldn’t be the most of the mark proposition ever) or waited for a better deal than the one they received. Can’t say I am a fan of this deal, but Pomeranz has a past that made him one of the most sought after prospects in the game, and here is hoping Beane has found his diamond in the rough in the mold of Brandon Moss. Problem is more often than not these deals turn into another Andy LaRoche.

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