A’s Deal Brett Anderson to Rockies

On Tuesday afternoon, as baseball’s Winter Meetings rolled on, the inevitable became a reality. With the signing of Scott Kazmir giving the A’s seven viable starting pitcher candidates on the roster, it was clear that somebody had to go. Brett Anderson, with his sketchy medical history and $8 million 2014 guaranteed salary, was that somebody. Sure enough, the A’s sent Anderson packing today to the Colorado Rockies for starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz and minor league starter Chris Jensen. Anderson now figures to become a key component of Colorado’s rebuilding starting rotation. With his move to the high altitude, Anderson’s fantasy keeper league owners figure to begin fitting their heads for the right oven size.

With the book closed on Anderson’s tenure with the A’s, I think it’s fair to say that he was mostly a crushing disappointment. Anderson, you may recall, was one of the key prospects (along with Carlos Gonzalez) that the A’s got from the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for Dan Haren in 2007. Anderson entered the 2009 season ranking seventh on Baseball America‘s prospect list, and performed admirably that year as a rookie in the majors, winning eleven games and striking out 150 batters in 175.1 innings, while posting a 4.06 ERA (and a 108 ERA+ that year). Anderson, at the ripe age of 21, seemed primed to develop into a star in short order.

Then the injuries hit. And hit…and hit. In 2010, Anderson was brilliant, but an elbow injury limited him to just 112 innings. In 2011, the big one arrived, as Anderson’s ongoing elbow problems led to Tommy John surgery that shelved him for more than a year. Anderson managed just 83.1 innings in 2011 before hitting the operating table. He returned late in 2012 and made six good starts (and one terrific playoff start against Detroit), and all systems seemed to be go yet again. Another Tommy John success story!

Not quite. Anderson was the Opening Day starter and pitched well in his first two starts this year, but then began to get cuffed around. After pitching five innings in relief in the now-legendary 19-inning game against the Angels,  he went down with yet another injury. This time it was a stress fracture to his foot that would sideline him until August. When he returned, the A’s were charging their way to a playoff berth and, with the emergence of Sonny Gray, they suddenly had no room for him in the rotation. He made nine unimpressive relief appearances in September and officially became an afterthought.

With $8 million due to him in 2014, the A’s figured Anderson wasn’t worth the risk. With Jarrod Parker, Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, A.J Griffin, and Dan Straily rounding out a deep rotation, and with Tom Milone around for good measure, Anderson was clearly expendable. Rumors had been swirling for the past week about an impending trade, and finally the A’s pulled the trigger. Oakland will pay $2 million of Anderson’s salary next season as Anderson acclimates himself to the National League and Denver’s thin air.

In return, the A’s get a curio. Drew Pomeranz was the fifth overall pick of the 2010 draft, and was later the player to be named later in the deal that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland. Since then, Pomeranz has seen a lot of time on the disabled list, and he essentially saw his 2013 season derailed due to bicep tendinitis. On the plus side, he showed promise in 2012 as perhaps the lone bright spot in a historically disastrous Rockie rotation, making 22 starts and not completely embarrassing himself (94 ERA+), which couldn’t be said of most Colorado pitchers that year.

Pomeranz was once regarded as a solid number two or three starter prospect, but the shine has completely worn off at this point. Now he’s a flier, a AAA stash job and insurance in case a rash of injuries were to hit the major league rotation. Worst case scenario, he can probably carve out a role in the majors as a LOOGY, as he was lights out against left-handed hitters in the minor leagues.

Jensen, the second pitcher acquired by Oakland in the deal, is a non-prospect who put up unspectacular numbers in the hitter-friendly California League in 2013. He’ll probably live life as organizational filler with a shot at a September call-up with some second-division team in the future.