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Milwaukee Brewers headed for free agency

Only one guy can hit the market with no strings attached this winter.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

For the first time in the history of the franchise, the Milwaukee Brewers qualified for three consecutive postseasons. Of course, that accomplishment comes with the caveat that the 2020 playoff berth came during a pandemic-shortened 60-game season during which eight teams from each league made the final tournament. The Brewers finished the year at 29-31 and were swept out of the postseason in the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won game one of the World Series last night against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Shortly after the conclusion of the best-of-seven championship matchup, the offseason will begin in earnest. Five days following the end of the World Series, both major and minor league players who are eligible can file for free agency. This year, the Brewers have only one player who can enter the open market with no strings attached — left-handed starter Brett Anderson.

LHP Brett Anderson

Milwaukee signed the injury-prone Anderson to a one-year deal last offseason to provide a veteran source of stable innings to their young rotational group, and he delivered just that during the 2020 campaign. As has been typical for the southpaw throughout his career, he did miss time with injury this summer, though the blisters he dealt with were not too serious and didn’t cost him much time. Anderson made 10 starts and threw an even 47.0 innings, good for fourth-most on the squad. During that time he posted a solid 4.21 ERA, which translated to a solidly above-average 108 ERA+.

Brett’s 6.1 K/9 was right in line with his career average, and his 1.9 BB/9 rate was the fourth-best total he has posted across his 12 MLB seasons. Anderson did give up his share of home runs (1.1 HR/9) but he also generated worm burners in his typical fashion, inducing a 57.7% ground ball rate. His 4.38 FIP and 98 FIP- were not far off from his actual ERA, supporting the idea that he was an above-average hurler for the Brewers this season.

Deserved Run Average was a bit less bullish on Anderson’s performance, through a 101 DRA- is still pretty close to average. xERA from Statcast is not a believer, however, suggesting that Anderson’s earned run average should have been more than a half-run higher than it actually was at 4.81. In fact, most of the Statcast data is down on Anderson. His hard contact rated in only the fifth percentile, and his exit velocity came in at the 35th percentile. His expected wOBA was in the 31st percentile, but his actual .323 wOBA allowed did match his .323 xwOBA. His spin rates and whiff rates were all poor, though he was above-average this year when it came to limiting barrels (58th percentile).

Anderson earned a pro-rated portion of $5 mil on his one-year contract in 2020 and will probably be looking at a similar type of deal in free agency again this winter (though who knows what MLB’s economics will look like after the coronavirus season with no fans). At this point, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are probably the only two players with guaranteed rotation spots for the Brewers heading into 2021, with the group of Eric Lauer, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser, Josh Lindblom, and Brent Suter providing immediate depth and advanced prospects like Zack Brown, Alec Bettinger, Dylan File, and maybe even Trey Supak (among others) on the horizon. That group could certainly use a stabilizing presence and the Brewers will almost surely sign at least one starting pitcher this winter, so perhaps a reunion with Anderson could make some sense. But there will be plenty of other options for Slingin’ David Stearns to consider, too.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball Savant