The Brewers announced a contract extension with Chase Anderson on Tuesday that locks up his next two arbitration years, replaces his final arbitration year with a club option, and gives the Brewers a club option for what would have been his first year after free agency. Here is the breakdown, per Adam McCalvy:
Signing Bonus: $1 million
2018: $4.25 million
2019: $6 million
2019: $8.5 million club option with $500,000 buyout
2020: $9.5 million club option with $500,000 buyout
The deal is a nothing short of a coup for the Brewers, as they gained the rights to buy a year of Anderson’s free agency for significantly below market value, without committing to any extra money or years. In return Anderson gets to lock in his next two annual salaries. That is some well-deserved financial security for the man who, at least for the time being, looks to be the 2018 opening day starter.
Anderson, like many of his teammates, had a breakout campaign in 2017. He posted a career-low 2.74 ERA. He struck out 23.4% of the batters he faced, a 5% increase over 2016. He walked fewer batters than his past two seasons, and saw a sharp decrease in the home runs he’s allowed. If he can keep up those numbers and stay healthy, the Brewers will have just inked one of the most valuable contracts in baseball. Is that feasible, though?
The short answer is probably not. A sub-3.00 ERA is Cy Young-level results. I don’t think anyone thinks that Anderson suddenly became a perennial Cy Young candidate at 29 years old. That said, we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that Anderson’s 2017 was a fluke.
An ERA in the low-to-mid 3’s isn’t an unrealistic expectation. Since his rookie season, Anderson has added 2 full mph to his fastball. He’s developed the quality of, and his confidence in, both his cutter and his curveball. Each pitch saw a 5% increase in usage last season, with the cutter supplementing his 4-seamer and sinker, and the curveball giving him another off-speed option to mix with the change. The increased confidence in those pitches kept the hitters guessing, and kept them from sitting on the 4-seamer. That’s probably a big reason why he allowed so many fewer home runs, despite the record number of home runs across Major League Baseball.
Anderson’s improvement is real, and the only thing I’d really be concerned about is his ability to stay on the field as he’s never thrown 155 innings in a season. The Brewers got a very good player to agree to sign to a very team friendly contract. I’m happy for Anderson, but a little puzzled as to why his agent couldn’t get a better deal for his client. At the very least, they should have locked in his 3rd year of arbitration, or made the value of his 4th year option closer to what he could be looking at in the open market. He was in line to hit free agency before his age-33 season. Now he’ll either hit free agency for his age-34 season, or as damaged goods, having just been bought out. Signing this extension lowers his potential future earnings significantly.
Anderson’s extension is the first of what could be many extensions handed out by Milwaukee this winter. Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, Corey Knebel, and even Orlando Arcia could be signing long term agreements with the club. Anderson is also the first of several pitching additions the Brewers could be making this offseason. With Jimmy Nelson set to miss most, if not all, of the 2018 season, the Brewers will probably be making some splashes in the free agency and trade markets to bolster their rotation and bullpen. This was an offseason starting point that Brewers fans should be very pleased with.