The Oakland A’s officially called up pitcher Brett Anderson on Wednesday, the team announced. The left-hander will start tonight’s game against the Mariners. To clear a spot on the 25-man roster, reliever Emilio Pagan was optioned down to Triple-A Nashville. There was already a spot open on the 40-man roster, so Anderson was added there without the need for another corresponding move.
Oakland signed Anderson in late March on a minor league deal, at a time when their rotation depth was quickly dwindling due to spring injuries. The 30-year-old is best known for being constantly injured himself, having only twice thrown even 120 MLB innings in a season and most recently in 2015. However, he’s a former top prospect and his quality stuff has often shown up when he’s managed to stay healthy enough to pitch. He was dominating in Triple-A so far this year in four starts.
Anderson, 2018 AAA: 1.89 ERA, 19 ip, 25 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR, 1.59 FIP
The veteran is a familiar face for A’s fans, as he made his big league debut with Oakland back in 2009. He ultimately spent five injury-plagued seasons in green and gold before being traded away, and over the next several years he pitched for four more teams. The highlight came in 2015 with the Dodgers, when he made 31 starts, threw a career-high 180⅓ innings, and posted a strong 3.69 ERA (3.94 FIP). Now he’s back in Oakland, rejoining a rotation that also welcomed back fellow 2009 rookie Trevor Cahill after a long absence.
Meanwhile, Pagan is the odd man out for now. The reliever was acquired last winter for slugger Ryon Healy, but he’s disappointed so far in just about every way. He’s not getting strikeouts, he’s allowing a ton of hits and walks, his homer rate has climbed from high to untenable, and the eyeball test suggests none of that is poor luck or undeserved. He’ll get a chance to reboot in the minors and try to rediscover the bite on his slider that led him to such excellent numbers last year.
Pagan, 2018: 5.93 ERA, 13⅔ ip, 7 Ks, 4 BB, 4 HR, 20 hits, 7.05 FIP
With the fifth starter back on board, the bullpen is down to its normal eight members.
Even in my most pessimistic scenarios I really didn’t think it was going to come to Anderson already by the beginning of May, but here we are. After two major MLB injuries (Cotton, Blackburn), two major injuries to top Triple-A prospects (Puk, Holmes), two early flameouts (Graveman, Gossett), and quickly tapping the primary depth option (Cahill), we’re already on to the minor league free agent.
That said, this was the right move in the moment. Anderson was clearly next in line and had earned a turn in Oakland, and in the meantime the remaining four starters are holding their own. Cahill is pitching as well as any of the more expensive veteran stopgaps who were available last winter, and Anderson could yet turn out to be just as successful. We’re not in the danger zone yet.
However, the rest of 2018 is still an enormous question mark. Counting on Anderson, Cahill, or Andrew Triggs for more than 100 good innings this year seems like an incredible gamble, since the last time any of them did so was Anderson in 2015. But the ship is staying afloat for now and more reinforcements could yet emerge from the farm (including Chris Bassitt or James Naile), so let’s enjoy the return of another familiar face and worry about tomorrow when it comes.
As for Pagan, all I can offer is a reminder that relievers are perhaps the most volatile creatures in all of sports. They can look like aces one day, gascans the next, and then amazing again after that, all in surprisingly short spans of time. The book is far from closed on him, and now he can stash away in the minors and try to work through his problems.
Welcome home, Brett! Good luck in Nashville, Emilio!
Sean Manaea (L)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Trevor Cahill (R)
Andrew Triggs (R)
Brett Anderson (L)
Blake Treinen (R)
Yusmerio Petit (R)
Ryan Dull (R)
Danny Coulombe (L)
Lou Trivino (R)
Santiago Casilla (R)
Chris Hatcher (R)
Wilmer Font (R)
Kendall Graveman (R)*
Daniel Gossett (R)*
Chris Bassitt (R)*
James Naile (R)
Eric Jokisch (L)
Frankie Montas (R)*
Josh Lucas (R)*
Emilio Pagan (R)*
Bobby Wahl (R)
Jake Sanchez (R)
Simon Castro (R)
Raul Alcantara (R)
Kyle Finnegan (R)
Jeremy Bleich (L)
* = on 40-man roster
10-day DL: LHP Ryan Buchter (shoulder), RHP Liam Hendriks (groin)
60-day DL: RHP Jharel Cotton (TJS), RHP Paul Blackburn (forearm strain)
AAA injuries: LHP A.J. Puk (TJS), RHP Grant Holmes (shoulder)