Okay, so maybe this is going to come off as a bit of an obvious rumor; I mean, the Toronto Blue Jays should be eyeing just about every potential starting pitcher available, really…but names! We have names this time! At least one of them has come up before, too:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) September 20, 2012
Of the pair of pitchers, Brett Anderson is probably the more intriguing – and riskier – name. Sure, Anibal Sanchez is pretty good too, and in his prime at 28, but the AL hasn’t exactly been kind to him (3.54 xFIP in the NL vs 4.27 in the AL this season), and his previously solid K/9 has dropped from 8.18 to 5.87 since the league change. An impending free agent making $8 million this season, the cost of signing Sanchez might well rise above 3+ years at $10 million or more; that’d make him the highest paid starting pitcher for the Blue Jays, when the team may be getting more of a back-end starter than a front-end guy. Not to say that Sanchez wouldn’t be a good target for the Blue Jays to go after, because he’d still be better than the team’s existing back-end options; but given the free agency situation and the teams in need of pitchers, it’s probably not as smooth of a fit, unless the Blue Jays have already made another front-end addition and he’s a complimentary piece.
That’d be where Anderson comes in. A former top prospect, the 24-year old does not come without his own set of risks – namely, his health. Anderson is excellent when he’s healthy, something that his 2.80/1.19 ERA/WHIP age-22 season should attest to. The caveat of course, is that his season was cut off by elbow problems; it’s something that carried with him to 2011, where he came out of the gate pitching very well again, but dropped off very quickly when his ailing elbow again caught up with him, leading to Tommy John surgery.
Not surprisingly, Anderson’s numbers coming off of said surgery has been strong: he allowed just 2 earned runs over 26 innings in his first 4 starts, exhibiting no ill effects to his control with a 6.33 BB/9. He had his first poor start on the 13th, giving up 5 runs in 6.2 innings, and was unfortunately hurt again in his last start, having to depart after just 2.2 innings with an oblique strain – an injury that will take him out for the last couple of weeks of the 2012 season. In short, the guy just hasn’t been very durable in his short career thus far.
Still, that’s the type of situation Brandon Morrow was in before the Blue Jays got him for Brandon League, right? Sometimes, these risks are worth taking; and with at least 2 more years of club control, I’d argue that Anderson is one of those risks. He won’t come nearly as cheaply as Morrow did – while the Oakland Athletics have a surplus in young arms, Anderson is still arguably the best of them. As long as they can compete in the AL West like they have this season, that’s not an asset the A’s are going to part with easily, injury risk or no. The Blue Jays will likely have to move a very good position prospect to acquire him, but then again, you have to pay upside to get upside, yes? Anderson, if healthy (big if), already has a couple of seasons of AL experience, would give the Blue Jays a dynamic (if not somewhat fragile) 1-2 at the top of the rotation, with the perfect-world potential that he could become a young ace for years to come.
Alex Anthopoulos has taking on similar risks in players before, and given the quality of players that are available in the FA class, I’d argue that it’s a risk he’ll have to take again to accomplish the goal of finding a top-end starter for the Blue Jays. Assuming that the team isn’t going to pay the mega-bucks that Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels will command, Anderson is the type of talent that the Blue Jays ought to go after first, and then focus on filling out the rotation via FA afterwards, if need be.