TORONTO -- The Blue Jays wasted no time in their offseason search for pitching, as they acquired veteran starter Chase Anderson from the Brewers on Monday.
In return, the Blue Jays sent Milwaukee Minor Leaguer Chad Spanberger, a first baseman and right fielder who played for Double-A New Hampshire this past season.
Toronto’s need for rotation help was clear entering this offseason after the club used 21 starters in 2019, many as a result of openers or bullpen days. Between injuries and the trades of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, the Blue Jays targeted Anderson’s year-to-year consistency as a potential steadying force around their younger starters.
Anderson, 31, owns a 3.94 ERA across six seasons in Arizona and Milwaukee. He has topped 150 innings in three of his last five seasons, and likely would have done the same in 2019 if he hadn’t opened the season in the bullpen, where he made five appearances before eventually making 27 starts.
Across those seasons, Anderson’s counting stats and peripheral numbers have stayed relatively consistent. Home runs have been a challenge for the right-hander, with his 30 tied for the most in the National League in 2018. That won’t get any easier in the American League East. He’s typically struck out close to one batter per inning, though, and his 3.2 walks-per-nine innings last season tied a career high.
“I think it is a fresh start, no doubt about it,” Anderson said. “But if you look at my overall numbers and what I provided to the Brewers as a starter and a little bit as a reliever, my numbers were pretty solid. Actually, [they were] really good. You look at my four years -- under a 4.00 ERA. My batting average against hitters was really low. My WHIP [1.27] is really good. I’m not a strikeout pitcher, but my strikeouts per nine [8.0] was pretty good. I feel like there were a lot of games I could have gone deeper into games, and with more innings my ERA would have come down a little bit.”
What the Blue Jays will hope to capture in Anderson is a piece of his peak 2017 season, when he posted a 2.74 ERA across 141 1/3 innings, good for 3.2 Wins Above Replacement per FanGraphs. Anderson’s curveball was a standout pitch that season, so it could be the secret to him outperforming expectations again in Toronto.
Anderson now joins Matt Shoemaker, the veteran right-hander who missed nearly all of 2019 with a torn ACL, in the Blue Jays’ projected '20 rotation. A young group of starters behind them -- led by Trent Thornton as the likeliest holdover and No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson as the hopeful future ace -- will make up some portion of the rotation, too, but Toronto’s offseason aggressiveness will determine just how many spots are available when Spring Training opens in February.
“You look through that roster, they’ve got some guys there,” Anderson said. “They’ve got Cavan Biggio, [Vladimir Guerrero Jr.], Bo Bichette, a good catcher in [Danny Jansen]. That’s just to name a few of their good prospects. It’s a fun young team, and I think we’re going to have a really good team over there in Toronto. Going to Canada is going to be a new thing for me, but I’m excited to go there.”
Monday was the deadline for the Brewers to make a decision on Anderson’s $8.5 million contract option for 2020, which came with a $500,000 buyout. Anderson also has a $9.5 million option for '21, the final year of his contract, with another $500,000 buyout.
The Blue Jays have plenty of financial flexibility this offseason after shedding nearly all of their large contracts, making trades with a financial element an understandable strategy for them. The club is expected to remain active at multiple levels of free agency, as well.
Spanberger, 24, was acquired from the Rockies in 2018 as part of the Seunghwan Oh deal. Power is Spanberger’s best tool, with two seasons of 19-plus homers in the Minors, but he hit just 13 last season in Double-A to go along with a .237 average and a .707 OPS. Spanberger was not ranked on Toronto’s Top 30 Prospects list, according to MLB Pipeline.