Grading the Brett Anderson Trade for Oakland A's, Colorado Rockies

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Grading the Brett Anderson Trade for Oakland A's, Colorado Rockies
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Attention, everyone. One of the more notable left-handers on the trade market has been dealt.

No, not David Price. It's Brett Anderson who's been traded.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was first to report the terms of the deal between the Oakland A's and Colorado Rockies:

Per Cot's Baseball Contracts, Anderson is owed $8 million for 2014. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says the A's are sending $2 million to Colorado to cover part of that.

OK, so not quite a blockbuster Price deal, but that doesn't mean there's no intrigue here. And since dishing out grades is the only way to respond to intriguing trades, that's what we're going to do.

 

For the Oakland A's

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

There was a time not too long ago when Oakland's rotation consisted of Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Sonny Gray, Dan Straily and then an open spot. Anderson was a candidate to fill that spot.

But then the A's signed Scott Kazmir, rounding out their rotation and forcing Anderson into the "rotation depth" pile alongside Tommy Milone.

Of the two, Anderson's the guy who had trade value; in large part, one figures, because of the success he enjoyed earlier in his career when he pitched to a 115 ERA+ between 2009 and 2011 before injuries took their toll. Rather than keep him around, the A's took advantage of that value.

In return for Anderson, the A's have gotten a former top prospect. Pomeranz was the fifth overall pick of the 2010 draft, and he was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians in 2011. At the end of the year, Baseball America had him down as Colorado's No. 1 prospect.

Since then, however, Pomeranz's work in the majors looks like this:

Drew Pomeranz, 2012-2013
Year G GS IP K% BB% HR/FB ERA+ FIP xFIP fWAR
2012 22 22 96.2 19.1 10.6 13.6 94 4.81 4.49 1.0
2013 8 4 21.2 18.1 18.1 19.0 72 6.46 5.39 -0.2

Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs

Those 2012 numbers? Pretty bad. Those 2013 numbers? A lot worse.

And that's not all. Pomeranz also had a 4.65 ERA in the minors and was on the disabled list from July to September with biceps tendinitis. It was the second year in a row his once-prized left arm had acted up on him, as he also dealt with a biceps issues in 2012.

All the same, Pomeranz is hardly a lost cause at the age of 25. And while he and Anderson are right around the same age, a major difference between the two is that Pomeranz is under team control through 2018. Anderson is under contract only through 2015, and that would require picking up his $12 million option.

In addition to the extra years of team control, the A's have a few other reasons to be optimistic about Pomeranz.

Data from Brooks Baseball shows that Pomeranz has exhibited better velocity the last two years than he did in 2011, and the problem he experienced with home runs over a small sample in 2013 obscures the fact that he had a 50.8 ground-ball percentage.

Lastly, there's the obvious: Pomeranz doesn't have to worry about pitching at Coors Field anymore. His new home park will now be O.co Coliseum, which is one of the best pitchers' parks in the majors thanks to its big outfield and excess of foul ground. 

As for the other piece the A's got in this deal, Chris Jensen looks like a throw-in. He's a right-hander the Rockies drafted in the sixth round back in 2011 and has only advanced as far as High-A. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com didn't have him among Colorado's top 20 prospects.

So for the A's, it's mainly a reclamation lefty for a reclamation lefty, with the main attraction being more time to develop the new guy into something more than the old guy.

And hey, if Pomeranz doesn't cut it as a starter, the A's could always try him as a reliever. As a fastball-curveball pitcher with some zip on his heat, it's a role he's well-profiled for. At worst, his .457 career OPS vs. lefty batters makes him a candidate to be a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY).

Call it short-term upside for some long-term upside. With a deep pitching staff that was already well-equipped to win in 2014, it's a deal the A's could afford to make.

Grade: B

 

For the Colorado Rockies

Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Pomeranz was in the same situation as Anderson not too long ago, as the Rockies had four solid starters and then an opening at the back end of their rotation.

Things got more complicated once the Rockies acquired Jordan Lyles as part of the Dexter Fowler trade. Colorado still could have kept Pomeranz in hopes that he would emerge in spring training. But given how much his value has fallen, you can't blame the Rockies for taking what they could get for him.

And in Anderson, they've acquired a guy who can help them in the short-term.

Anderson has had a rough go of it recently in his own right, missing most of 2011 and 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery and a good chunk of 2013 with a right ankle injury. When he was able to pitch, he pitched to a 6.04 ERA in 16 appearances.

But if we use FanGraphs to take a closer look at Anderson's performances since his return from Tommy John, we see:

Brett Anderson, 2012-2013
Year FB Velo GB% FIP xFIP ERA
2012 91.5 59.8 2.72 3.06 2.57
2013 91.7 62.9 3.85 3.26 6.04

FanGraphs

Anderson's fastball sat at 92.1 miles per hour in 2010 and 90.9 in 2011, so he hasn't been missing an excess of velocity since his return. Good news, that.

What's even better are those ground-ball rates. Picking up ground balls was something Anderson was getting better at even before he went in for Tommy John, and he hasn't quit since his return. In fact, the progression of his GB% is as sexy as it gets.

With all those ground balls, Anderson didn't deserve a 17.9 HR/FB rate or a 6.04 ERA. His FIP and xFIP are much more encouraging, with his xFIP notably being very similar to the one he posted in 2012.

The Rockies must have noticed that, but I'm guessing they would have made this move if they looked only at the ground balls. Those are good everywhere, but they're an especially good way to overcome the thin air and ginormous gaps of Coors Field.

And the Rockies, for the record, quietly embraced a ground-ball movement in 2013. Only the Pirates and Cardinals saw their pitchers rack up a better GB% than Colorado pitchers.

In light of that, Anderson fits into what the Rockies are trying to do on the field. His contract, meanwhile, is something they can be rid of as soon as after 2014 if he crashes and burns. 

It will be a bust if it comes to that, especially if Pomeranz ends up finding himself in Oakland. But if the plan in Colorado is to contend in 2014, the Rockies do have a better chance of doing that with Anderson in the mix than they would have with Pomeranz.

And since there's more immediate upside for the Rockies than there is for the A's, I'll go ahead and give them the edge in the grading. Somebody has to get it, after all.

Grade: B+

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.

 

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