The Brewers have eight players up for arbitration this winter as they continue their rebuild. We'll take a look at each one, make the case for tendering that player a contract and the case for cutting ties, and try to figure out what the Brewers should do before the non-tender deadline.
Today it's another starting pitcher that overcame a poor start to the season to rebound in the second half. But with only one season in Milwaukee to reflect on, which half do we believe?
SP Chase Anderson
2016 Salary: $520,200
Estimated Arbitration Cost (via MLB Trade Rumors): $3.1 million
The Case for Tendering
Much like Wily Peralta, Anderson's overall numbers don't look inspiring on the surface, but there's a little room for optimism if you dig deeper. He got off to a disastrous first few months with the Brewers, but turned it around after the All-Star break to put up a more respectable stat line. After putting up an ERA of 5.44 (FIP of 5.60) in the first half, he started cutting down on the number of baserunners he allowed and kept the ball in the park more effectively, leading to a surprising 3.02 ERA (4.43 FIP) in the second half.
You could make the argument that Anderson might've been the victim of some bad flyball luck, since his 14.9% HR/FB rate was the highest of his career and so much higher than the 11.1% rate he put up in 2015 with Arizona. That normalized a bit in the second half of 2016, which played a hand in his mid-season rebound.
If you're looking for a season-long positive in his first year with the Brewers, you could find it in his strikeout numbers. Never blessed with overpowering stuff, Anderson did manage to improve his K-rates in 2016, striking out 18.6% of the batters he faced (up from 17.3% in 2015) and 7.12 per 9 innings, both of which are career bests.
The Case for Non-Tendering
Unfortunately, Anderson also increased his walk rate stats last season, including nearly a 2% increase in his BB%, which ballooned from 6.3% to 8.2%. Higher strikeout totals are great, but when they're coupled with higher walks, you have a highly inefficient pitcher who struggles to go deep into games (and makes you wonder if he truly improved his strikeout ability, or if he was just effectively wild at times). He barely averaged 5 innings per start, and only went 7+ innings once -- when he improbably was one out away from a complete game shutout against the Cubs in May before Kris Bryant hit a two-run home run in the 9th inning.
Whether it was a fluke or not, the number of home runs he allowed was a problem. The 28 gopher balls weren't a team record or anything -- they don't even crack the top 10 in team history -- but it's pretty incredible he managed to give up that many given how short his outings tended to be. Because of the home run issues, his FIP would actually point to Anderson's 4.39 ERA being lucky. That model says if you looked at only things Anderson could control, the ERA should've been north of 5. For a guy who received 30 starts, that's just flat-out bad, and the only year-long starter on the team with a worse FIP in 2016 was Jimmy Nelson.
He's also failed to put up a league-average ERA+ in any of his seasons in the big leagues, posting three-straight sub-100 efforts. So far he's shown to be a guy with slightly below-average stuff with below-average performance to match.
What Should Happen?
It's probably safe to assume Chase Anderson won't be a part of the next Brewers team that posts a winning record, but the team is still a year or two away from that, and they need someone to take innings at a reasonably cheap rate until then. Anderson might have been in a little more danger of being non-tendered if the organization's top pitching prospects were ready for the majors right now, but there's no need to start the arb clocks of Josh Hader, et al just yet, and the prospects could still use more seasoning.
Given what the price of starting pitching is on the open market, getting a guy like Anderson for a few million doesn't seem like a big deal. Bring him into spring training and let him compete for a spot in the rotation. If he puts up another season like he did in 2016, then you can probably view him as a serious non-tender candidate next offseason.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Reference