Anderson finalizes Brewers deal, eager for 'fun baseball'

January 23rd, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers added another option for third base and perhaps helped to fill a void for a right-handed-hitting outfielder by finalizing a one-year pact with versatile free agent Brian Anderson on Monday.

Anderson -- no relation to the longtime Brewers broadcaster by the same name -- is expected to play at both third base and right field after putting the finishing touches on a free-agent contract that guarantees the former Miami Marlin $3.5 million, according to a report from SportsGrid's Craig Mish. Anderson can earn an additional $2 million in incentives.

"I’m open to any of it," said Anderson, who said he's even game to play first base if called upon, even though he's appeared there only once in the Majors. "I want to be with a winning team and a winning culture and be part of that fun baseball again. That’s more what I’m looking forward to than anything. Third base, first base, outfield, it doesn’t really matter to me."

An incentive-laden deal makes sense for a 29-year-old who delivered a .349 on-base percentage and a 113 wRC+ for the Marlins from 2017-20, but struggled with injuries in each of the past two seasons before he was non-tendered by Miami this winter. Anderson's chief concern has been an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which has impacted his swing.

But Anderson indicated he's healthy again -- "I’m working out, I’m full go, I don’t even notice my shoulder anymore," he said -- and his throwing shoulder has been just fine all along. While getting almost equal playing time last season at third base (42 starts) and the outfield (41 starts), Anderson ranked in Statcast's 99th percentile for arm strength. His defensive versatility means a variety of options for the Brewers, who have Luis Urías, Owen Miller, Abraham Toro, Mike Brosseau and rookie Brice Turang among the incumbent options for third base, depending how the other infield spots are aligned. And since he bats right-handed, Anderson could also get at-bats in the outfield, where Christian Yelich, Jesse Winker and Garrett Mitchell all hit left-handed and Tyrone Taylor is the only right-handed option.

"Brian is a well-rounded player that should help us in a number of ways on both sides of the ball," said general manager Matt Arnold. "His tools and athleticism, along with how hard he plays the game, are all characteristics we value here with the Brewers, and we are excited to have him on board."

What was Anderson told to expect in terms of playing time?

"They talked a lot about third base kind of being the primary role they were looking at with me, with occasionally spending time in the outfield and maybe even some first base," he said. "First base is one of the positions I have the least amount of work at. What really appealed to me about Milwaukee was just the whole organization. I’m just excited to be with an organization whose focus is really on winning and competing at every level."

Anderson began his professional career as Miami's third-round Draft pick in 2014 and he was a full-time big leaguer by 2018, when he batted .273 with 11 home runs and 65 RBIs in 156 games, leading all Major League rookies in games, at-bats (590), runs (87), hits (161) and doubles (34). Anderson followed up in 2019 with career highs for home runs (20), RBIs (66) and extra-base hits (54) in 2019, and in the shortened 2020 season, he helped the Marlins reach the postseason for the first time since 2003 as the team's leader in games, at-bats, home runs, total bases and extra-base hits. He was also a Gold Glove Award finalist at third base that season. 

He's eager to be that kind of impact player again. 

"I’m excited to have an actual offseason where I’m healthy and can go in and really try to build that strength and try to put on more muscle," Anderson said. "That way I can really drive the ball again the way that I should."

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Brewers designated first baseman Jon Singleton for assignment.