Pittsburgh Pirates: Analyzing the Tyler Anderson Signing


Tuesday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates bolstered their starting rotation with the addition of lefty Tyler Anderson

On Tuesday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates, per Ken Rosenthal, signed free agent left-handed pitcher Tyler Anderson to a Major League deal pending a physical.  Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the pact will reportedly earn Anderson $2.5M.

The ex-Giant had previously been linked to the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier in the offseason, including in a recently featured article in Rum Bunter. Anderson will bring a lifetime 4.65 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 2.74 K/BB, and 8.04 K/9 to PNC park.

During the 2020 season Anderson made 13 appearances -11 as a starter- and pitched 59.2 innings posting a 4.37 ERA and a 4.36 FIP. Unfortunately, the 2020 season saw his fastball velocity decrease (-1.1 MPH) with a subsequent drop in his K/9 (-3.84) and strikeout rate (-5.9) from 2019 levels.

Deeper analysis shows his 2020 batting average on balss in play at .286 -close to a career average of .301- suggesting that luck didn’t have much to do with last year’s struggles. On the positive side, Anderson’s BB/9 was nearly a full point lower in 2020 (3.77) compared to 2019 (4.79) while his HR/9 plummeted a full 2.73 points (3.48 vs 0.75). Many of these changes can be contributed to trading Denver’s Coors Field for San Francisco’s Oracle Park as a home venue, but time and a full season’s work will tell the truth.

Both the ZiPS and Steamer systems project Anderson (before the signing) to contribute 100 innings of 5.00 ERA and 1.40 WHIP ball working mainly as a starter. ZiPS is more bullish on Anderson, predicting a 1.2 WAR 2021 season for the former first-rounder compared to 0.3 WAR from Steamer. Another factor to keep an eye on is whether or not Anderson’s surgically repaired knee, performed to correct a cartilage defect in 2019, holds up over a full 162 game season.

The current Pirates SP depth chart is projected as Mitch Keller, Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, JT Brubaker, Cody Ponce, Wil Crowe, and Miguel Yajure. Rum Bunter’s Marty Leap took a  shot at projecting out the rotation based on the current roster after the Jameson Taillon trade.

Kuhl and Brault are the most experienced of the two and thus likely to be traded before the season begins. That leaves a mostly-unexperienced group of starters that are significantly bolstered by the signing of a five-year veteran who has surpassed 100 IP in two of those five seasons. Anderson will not only bring relief to a Pittsburgh Pirates rotation desperate for innings, but can also serve as an experienced presence who has pitched in the most demanding hitter-friendly environment in the Majors.

The Anderson signing should bump the Pirates’ 2021 Total Adjusted Salary Payroll over the $40M threshold, still more than 5.6 times less than that of MLB’s top spender, the Los Angeles Dodgers ($226.322M). Importantly, the Pirates’ 40-man roster is full, so the signing indicates a corresponding move to come. There is a clear path to a rotation spot for Anderson, and should he pitch well, could represent a valuable trade chip for Pittsburgh at the deadline.

While this addition adds much needed depth to a staff desperate for innings and Major League experience, the front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates would be wise to add another arm before the season begins, particularly if they intend to trade Kuhl and/or Brault in the coming weeks.

In an unrelated NL Central move that takes another Pirate FA target is off the board as the Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a similar one-year, $2.5M deal with LHP Brett Anderson. As the clock ticks and rosters fill up, the Pirates are running out of time and options to add impact players for the 2021 season. Currently, Fangraphs predicts the Pittsburgh  Pirates playoff odds at just 0.4%.