MILWAUKEE -- Chase Anderson's best Major League season produced a pay day on Thursday, when the Brewers announced they'd agreed to a contract extension that could carry the right-hander all the way through his first year of free agency.
It is a two-year deal that guarantees $11.75 million through 2019 with a pair of club options that would cover '20 (Anderson's final year of arbitration eligibility) and '21 (his first year of free agency). Including incentives for innings pitched, it could pay Anderson more than $30 million over the next four years.
Anderson earned $2.45 million in 2017 as a Super Two arbitration-eligible player after losing in a hearing. Armed with an improved curveball, a new cutter and newfound fastball velocity, he went 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 141 1/3 innings, winning the Brewers' Pitcher of the Month honors in April and September. Anderson was limited to 25 starts because he spent seven weeks on the disabled list with a left oblique strain he suffered swinging the bat in Cincinnati on June 28, but in his last 37 starts dating to last July, he is 17-5 with a 2.69 ERA.
"We think that's a performance level that can continue," Brewers general manager David Stearns said.
Per a source, Anderson gets a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $4.25 million in 2018 and $6 million in '19, with a $500,000 buyout of the first option. That adds up to an $11.75 million guarantee. The club options are for $8.5 million in '20 and $9.5 million in '21 (with $500,000 buyouts of each).
Anderson also can earn up to $400,000 in incentives for innings pitched each year -- $50,000 for 162 innings, $150,000 for 180 innings and $200,000 for 200 innings.
So if the Brewers exercise both options and Anderson tops 200 innings in each of the next four seasons, he could earn up to $30.85 million.
"I'm very thankful to be in these shoes, because a lot of people don't get to this point. It means my family is taken care of and I can just focus on baseball and we can win a World Series," Anderson said. "The timing for me was right, being in the middle of arbitration. I'm not a guy that likes to truly go year to year. It's a gamble. When a team offers you an extension and it's guaranteed money, it's hard to turn it down. It's security for your family. I'm a person who wants my family to be taken care of no matter what happens."
Key to the deal from the Brewers' perspective, Stearns said, was the potential to buy out at least one year of free agency. He suggested the Brewers were engaged in discussions with several other players about similar agreements.
Anderson will turn 30 on Nov. 30. The Brewers acquired him from the D-backs in a five-player trade in January 2016 that also netted veteran infielder Aaron Hill and Minor Leaguer Isan Diaz for shortstop Jean Segura and pitcher Tyler Wagner. Diaz is Milwaukee's No. 6 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.
While pitching for Arizona from 2014-15, Anderson posted a 4.18 ERA in 48 starts while averaging about 91 mph with his fastball. He touched 96.9 mph in '17 and was also armed with the changeup he mastered in high school, a curveball honed during the second half of 2016 after pitching coach Derek Johnson proposed a new grip, and a cut fastball which Anderson featured extensively for the first time this season.
"It really opened different opportunities for me as a pitcher, having four pitches," Anderson said. "I give Derek Johnson a ton of credit for my past season. Without him, I wouldn't be in this position."
The Brewers will need all four of those pitches in 2018. Anderson and Zach Davies, another right-hander with a plus changeup, are the team's top returning starting pitchers because Jimmy Nelson will miss a significant portion of the season while recovering from right shoulder surgery. It remains unclear how much time Nelson will miss, though a follow-up visit with his Los Angeles-based surgeon earlier this month was "positive," Stearns said. The Brewers will have a better idea of the timeline once Nelson begins throwing again, but that is months away, according to Stearns.
In the meantime, the Brewers do have the financial flexibility to add to their starting pitching depth this offseason via free agency or trades.
Anderson's signing left the Brewers with eight players eligible for arbitration: Nelson plus fellow pitchers Jared Hughes, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Carlos Torres, and position players Hernan Perez, Jonathan Villar and Stephen Vogt.