Rockies confident Anderson can be 'impact starter'
Rockies confident Anderson can be 'impact starter'
By Thomas Harding
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pitcher Brett Anderson's surgically repaired left elbow is as good as new. He suffered a stress fracture of the right foot in 2013, but that's healed. It was a good time for a fresh start -- one he received Tuesday, when the Rockies acquired him and cash from the Athletics for left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz and right-handed Minor League pitcher Chris Jensen.
Anderson, who turns 26 on Feb. 1, has struggled with injuries throughout his career -- most significantly an elbow issue that led to Tommy John surgery in 2011 and the foot problem last season -- but he is a ground-ball pitcher with a high strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.98. Anderson went 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA last season in 16 games, including 10 relief appearances after returning from the foot injury.
Anderson is 26-29 with a 3.81 ERA in 84 games (73 starts) over five seasons, but his 2009 rookie year (11-11, 4.06 ERA in 30 starts) was his only season not interrupted by injury.
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"I like baseball too much to be hurt, which is kind of cheesy," Anderson said. "But I like to be out there competing. I want to be one of those guys. It's tough to say because of my track record, but I want to be one of those guys you depend on to take the ball every fifth day and give the team an opportunity to win. As long as I'm healthy I don't see any problems with that."
There is more to Anderson than an injury history. The A's thought enough of him to start him on Opening Day in 2013. The Rockies, who are close to being able to call their starting rotation a strength, thought enough to make a significant financial investment. Anderson is due $8 million in 2014. A Major League source said the A's will pay $2 million of that amount.
"Anderson puts us in position to perform better out of the rotation right now," said Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations. "And that was the biggest thing. As far as his health, he's been through the last couple years with injuries, the last one being the foot. But we're comfortable with that and the progress he's made. We feel like we're getting an impact starter in this deal."
The Rockies went 74-88 and finished last in the National League West in 2013. However, they were 49-32 in games started by left-hander Jorge De La Rosa and righties Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood, but 25-56 with all other starters.
"This is a guy that's been a top-of-the-rotation starter for the A's, who were a playoff club," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
The addition of Anderson pushes Juan Nicasio, who struggled at times but managed a 9-9 record in 31 starts, to the fifth spot, with competition from righty Jordan Lyles, whom the Rockies acquired last week from the Astros, and lefty Christian Friedrich, who didn't pitch in the Majors last season because of back issues.
By trading Pomeranz, (4-14, 5.20 ERA in 34 Major League appearances, 30 starts) the Rockies part with their last Major League roster link to the trade that sent former Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians in 2011. But the Rockies have more concerns than making an old, if highly publicized, swap look good.
"We still believe in Drew, but there's a timing issue with a younger pitcher and where they're at in their career," Geivett said. "We felt like Anderson helped solidify us for next year with a little bit more certainty.
"We're just looking to make our club better. That's all we do."
The A's had seven Major League starters and became younger with Pomeranz, 25.
"Brett's been with us for several years, and someone obviously with that kind of talent we think very highly of, but with the amount of guys we have, we could use that to get younger guys with less service time, and that was attractive," A's general manager Billy Beane said.
Originally drafted by the D-backs out of Stillwater (Okla.) High School in the second round of the 2006 MLB First-Year Player Draft and sent to the A's in the Dan Haren deal (the one that sent current Rockies star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to Oakland), Anderson relies on a biting slider that he mixes with four-seam and two-seam fastballs, a curve and a developing changeup.
The numbers have been strong but durability has been a question. The elbow problems limited him to 32 starts in 2010 and 2011 before he underwent surgery. He returned in 2012 but made just six starts before suffering a season-ending oblique injury. Last year he suffered a right ankle injury, and the stress fracture was discovered during an X-ray.
The good news was he finished last year on the mound. Geivett said Rockies scouts believe all his pitches are back. Anderson is ready to be healthy.
"It's frustrating," Anderson said. "There are times when you're not 'Why me?' but 'Why did this happen?' But it's commonplace that tons of people have Tommy John and they come back just as strong if not stronger.
"Dealing with the injury this past year to my foot, that was more frustrating. My foot was in a boot for eight weeks. But you've got to look glass half-full and realize it's going to work out for the best and you have a healthy year the next year and good things will happen."
Anderson said he is looking forward to a new league ("I'll have to get more than two bats for Interleague this year -- maybe even a bat bag") and a new start.
"It's always good to be wanted," he said. "Dating back to a week or maybe a little less, you hear the rumors rumbling and stuff. Like I said, it's always good to be wanted. It's a fresh start with a new organization and hopefully I can prove myself and show why they traded for me."
The trade is the latest effort in the Rockies' active offseason.
They spent $2.5 million for free-agent righty LaTroy Hawkins, who will be the closer. They dealt center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Astros for Lyles and right-handed hitting outfielder Brandon Barnes. They're soon expected to officially announce signing left-handed-hitting first baseman Justin Morneau for two years at $12.5 million, including $6.3 million in 2014.
They're not done.
The Rockies talked extensively over the last two days with the Reds about acquiring lefty specialist Sean Marshall, but shoulder injuries limited him to 16 appearances last year and the Rockies are standing pat for now. If the deal occurs, the Rockies are likely to send prospects and/or depth players to the Reds and will seek cash relief since Marshall is owed $12 million over the next two years, including $5.5 million in 2014. The club continues to seek a power bullpen arm, more likely through trade than free agency.
Still trying to add offense, the Rockies talked about either pursuing right-handed-hitting outfielder-first baseman Michael Morse or infielder Michael Young.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.