If you had told me two months ago the Athletics would trade Brett Anderson but not to the Royals, I probably would have sighed with relief. It's not so much that I don't believe in Anderson. It's not so much that I don't think the Royals could use him.
The talent is there without question. For his career, Anderson has a 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 7.1 K/9 rate in 450.2 innings (84 appearances/73 starts). He's left-handed, turns 26 in February. The problem is, those stats were accrued over the course of five seasons. Since tossing 175.1 innings as a rookie in 2009, his innings dropped to 112.1 in 2010, 83.1 in 2011, 35 in 2012 and back up a tick to 44.2 in 2013 (although predominantly as a reliever). The culprit? Injuries.
According to Wikipedia, Anderson suffered from forearm soreness in 2009, although it didn't cost him any starts. The next year he suffered a forearm strain, cutting his season in half, and he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011. Even after coming back from TJ in 2012, an oblique strain landed him on the DL. And last year he suffered from an ankle injury/stress fracture in his right foot.
The red flags run up and down Anderson's 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame.
So the knowledge that Anderson would not be breaking down again as a Royal would have been a load off my mind. Plus, any time Dayton Moore can avoid trading with Billy Beane is a plus in my book.
But that would have been my mindset two months ago. On Nov. 21, the Royals inked left-hander Jason Vargas, who will turn 31 the day after Anderson turns 26, to a four-year, $32 million deal. In the best of all possible scenarios, Vargas will be nothing more than dead weight on the Royals' 40-man roster by 2016.
And today the Rockies traded Drew Pomeranz and minor league arm Chris Jensen for Anderson.
Pomeranz is known mostly for being drafted No. 5 overall by the Indians and then traded as part of the deal for Ubaldo Jimenez. Other than that, his professional career has been less noteworthy than Anderson's, with a career ERA of 5.20 and WHIP of 1.54 in parts of three seasons. Jensen will report to Double-A Midland for the Athletics and, at age 23 going into his fourth year of pro ball, is not an especially dazzling prospect. Entering the Oakland organization and exiting Colorado's is sure to help, though.
There's no clear winner in this deal. Pomeranz just turned 25 himself, but the A's will control him for the next five years whereas Anderson will be a free agent in two years (he has a club option for 2015). The A's also save $8 million this season and potentially $12 million in 2015 ($1.5 million buyout). But the Rockies had obviously seen enough of Pomeranz and decided the devil they didn't know was preferable to the one they did.
Ah, but did that $8 million catch your attention? As in the same $8 million amount Vargas will be making this season.
So today, armed with the knowledge that the Royals filled out their rotation with an $8 million nothing of a starter, I am actually disappointed to learn the Royals didn't trade for Anderson.
I'm not saying the Royals should have been the team trading for Anderson today. Depending on the price, which appears to have been reasonable, I'd have taken Anderson today if it meant bouncing Wade Davis to the bullpen. If it would have cost the Royals anyone more promising than Danny Duffy, though, I'd probably have backed out. And from what I read, Beane was adamant about getting at least one starting pitcher back in any deal involving Anderson.
However, if you go back to Nov. 21, that was before the A's had gone coo coo for relievers, trading for Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson. So playing the "what if" game, at that point in time, perhaps Beane would have taken Louis Coleman and a pitching prospect not in the Royals top 15 prospects for Anderson. It's possible.
At that point, Moore would have acquired a pitcher with much higher upside than Vargas for the same monetary amount and an expendable price as far as assets go. And whereas Vargas is sure to be a burden on the 40-man in two years, even at $8 million, there would have been little long-term risk involved with Anderson.
If Anderson had come in this year and been hampered by injuries yet again, a pitcher of Vargas' quality would no doubt have been available midseason via trade. Then after the season you buy out Anderson and look for the next bargain bin arm.
Or, if Anderson's body had finally held up and he pitched as well as he's proven capable, $12 million is an absolutely fair price to pay to bring him back for 2015. After that point Moore have taken a wait and see approach to signing Anderson long-term. Even if Anderson would have walked as a free agent, Moore would have had the peace of mind knowing the $4 million extra he spent on Anderson was money well spent compared to having Vargas for another two years and another $16 million.
That's why if you're the GM of a budget-conscious organization like Moore, you don't throw yourself at the first nondescript free agent that shows interest in you. Those are the players you wait on until January.
November and December are reserved for the bold, savvy moves. As long as they don't involve trading your best hitting prospect for a two-year rental.
Fire Dayton Moore