This past week, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed LHP Tyler Anderson to a major league deal. They also signed infielder Todd Frazier to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.
Anderson’s deal is for one year, $2.5 million. In 11 starts with the San Francisco Giants last season (59.2 innings pitched), the now 31-year-old went 4-3 with a 4.37 ERA (4.36 FIP). His strikeout rate of 15.8 percent was well below his career rate of 21 percent. His ground ball rate of 28.5 percent was also well below his career 40.7 percent rate. Perhaps Anderson was aided by an extremely low 6.1 percent home run/fly ball ratio. Who knows, 2020 was weird and stupid. One thing known is that Anderson generates a ton of soft contact. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings tossed in 2020, Anderson had the 15th lowest average exit velocity generated (86.8 mph). In his last full season of pitching before 2020, Anderson tossed 176 innings in 2018 with the Colorado Rockies. That year, he went 7-9 with a 4.55 ERA (4.57 FIP) and was worth 1.8 fWAR.
As far as his role with the Pirates, Anderson will slot somewhere in the middle of their starting rotation. His job will be to eat as many innings as possible. If he is productive and good, that will be great for the Pirates as he could be flipped at the trade deadline for prospects. A supposedly deadened baseball combined with PNC Park’s spacious left field could make for a nice recipe of success for Anderson.
Let’s now move on to Frazier. If he makes the team, which seems extremely likely, he will be owed $1.5 million. In 2020 with the Texas Rangers and New York Mets, the now 35-year-old veteran hit .236/.302/.382 with four home runs in 172 plate appearances. In 2019, he had a nice season hitting .251/.329/.443 with 21 home runs in 499 PA. He was worth 1.8 fWAR that year.
When it comes to his role with the Pirates, Frazier will most likely platoon at first base with Colin Moran. Moran will face right-handers. Frazier will hit against southpaws. Last season against lefties, Frazier produced nicely hitting .293/.359/.483 with two home runs in 64 PA. Careerwise, he possesses a 119 wRC+ against left-handers. If we pair that with Moran’s career 106 wRC+ against righties, the Pirates will have themselves an okay-ish hitting first base platoon. If Moran can replicate his 2020 output (128 wRC+ against righties), this platoon has a chance to be outright decent, even at the offensively heavy first base. Best-case scenario, Moran and Frazier will combine for 25-30 home runs.
The signings this week were nice because both of these pros add a veteran presence to an otherwise young team. As it currently stands, Anderson and Frazier will be two of the only three Pirates at Spring Training who were born in the 1980s. Jacob Stallings is the other. For the time being, these players will go about their business, perhaps show the young guys some tricks of the trade, and hopefully play well enough to get traded themselves at the deadline.