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Oakland A’s re-sign Brett Anderson

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First reported by Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle.

He’s baaaaaaack.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s have re-signed pitcher Brett Anderson pending a physical, first reported by Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle and confirmed by Jeff Passan of ESPN. It’s a one-year MLB contract, but the salary is not yet known. The physical is scheduled for Tuesday.

Update: The base salary is $1.5 million, via Buster Olney of ESPN. Update 2: The signing has now been officially announced by the team. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Sean Manaea was transferred to the 60-day injured list while he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Last winter, Anderson came to Oakland on a minor league contract, but the lefty proved that he can still be an effective starter in the majors. He was called up in May and ended up making 17 starts for the A’s, with around league-average results overall. Health was an issue as usual, as he landed on the injured list twice for a shoulder strain and a forearm strain, but he was able to take the mound enough to contribute a good chunk of innings to a team that sorely needed them.

Anderson, 2018: 4.48 ERA, 80⅓ ip, 47 Ks, 13 BB, 10 HR, 4.17 FIP

The 31-year-old isn’t someone to count on to carry a big workload, but he’s one more established arm to plug into the mix as the A’s try to patch together 162 games worth of pitching. He’s also a lefty on a roster flooded with righties, and he’s the groundball specialist that Athletics Nation has been hoping to add to the rotation. His 55.6% groundball rate last season was the third-highest among all MLB starters with at least 80 innings (out of 145 pitchers).

Oakland’s rotation now has three guaranteed names, with Anderson, Mike Fiers, and Marco Estrada. Beyond that is a long list of prospects, injury bounce-backs, and other lotto tickets who will compete to fill the final two spots, not to mention a bullpen that figures to do some heavy lifting again. The A’s will need to make a move to clear space on the 40-man roster for Anderson, but perhaps by then they’ll be allowed to transfer one of their injured pitchers to the 60-day IL instead of DFA’ing someone. (Update: Indeed, the move was placing Manaea on the 60-day IL.)

Of course, Anderson’s history with Oakland goes back long before 2018. He was wearing green and gold when he debuted in the majors in 2009, and he spent the first five seasons of his career here including two trips to the playoffs. He bounced around a few other teams after that before returning last summer, but he’s still an extremely familiar face to A’s fans.

Analysis

I’m not surprised to see Anderson return, though I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to command an MLB deal or have to settle for another minor league pact. Either way, he’s a good fit at his presumably modest price, as he can give the award-winning infield plenty of grounders to feast on. His pitch-to-contact efficiency allowed him to go at least six innings in 7-of-17 starts last year despite never throwing 100 pitches in a game and rarely throwing 90 pitches.

Even if (when) Anderson runs into injury setbacks, the A’s are equipped for that. They figure to have reinforcements trickling in throughout the summer, between prospects forcing their way up and their legion of Tommy John patients getting back on the field. But 2018 showed us that a depth chart can deplete in the blink of an eye, so it’s best to stock up — and it’s nice to have at least a few arms you know are MLB-caliber instead of relying completely on lotto tickets. Anderson doesn’t have to pitch a full season to be helpful, because even another 80-100 good frames would go a long way and by then there should be someone else ready to tap in.

This is what depth looks like. It’s not a flashy move, but Anderson has shown he can still get the job done and play a role on a postseason team. Welcome back, Brett!

Updated depth chart

Here’s a look at the rotation options with Anderson back on board.

Newest additions, on MLB contracts

  • Mike Fiers (re-signed as free agent)
  • Marco Estrada (signed as free agent)
  • Brett Anderson (re-signed as free agent)

Healthy and out of options, but are they starters?

  • Daniel Mengden
  • Chris Bassitt
  • Frankie Montas

Injured, but might contribute in 2019

  • Paul Blackburn (spent most of 2018 on DL, but ready for 2019)
  • Jharel Cotton (out for beginning of 2019)
  • Sean Manaea (out for much of 2019)
  • Daniel Gossett (out for most of 2019)
  • Grant Holmes (missed all of 2018, and hasn’t pitched in Triple-A)
  • A.J. Puk (out for beginning of 2019, and hasn’t pitched in Triple-A)

Triple-A Depth

  • Jesus Luzardo (top prospect, maybe MLB-ready now)
  • Parker Bridwell (waiver claim, outrighted to AAA)
  • Tanner Anderson (reliever converting to starting)
  • Jake Buchanan (veteran minor league free agent)
  • Kyle Lobstein (veteran minor league free agent)
  • James Naile (fringe Triple-A prospect)
  • Parker Dunshee (promising Double-A prospect)
  • Brian Howard (promising Double-A prospect)