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To keep or not to keep: Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson struggled in 2021, limited to playing 67 games due to injuries and not performing up to his usual standards offensively when available (.249 BA, .337 OBP, .378 SLG, .715 OPS). Anderson still is at an elite level defensively, but he’s a question mark for the Marlins moving forward coming off season-ending shoulder surgery. Once viewed as a leading candidate to receive a contract extension, it’s now fair to wonder whether his days in Miami are numbered. The Marlins will explore all possibilities for upgrading their roster leading up to the 2022 season.

Let’s look at it from both sides.

Why to Keep Brian Anderson

The last time we saw Brian Anderson at full strength, he was one of the best players on the team.

  • 2018: .273 BA, .357 OBP, .400 SLG, .757 OPS, 161 H, 11 HR, 65 RBI (156 G)
  • 2019: .261 BA, .342 OBP, .468 SLG, .811 OPS, 120 H, 20 HR, 66 RBI (126 G)

It was more of the same in 2020 as well, though that was a smaller sample (59 G). That year, BA finished as a finalist for the NL Gold Glove award at 3rd base. We’ve also seen him provide positive defensive value at right field when needed there.

Fish Stripes original GIF

The Marlins’ minor league depth at 3rd base is nothing special, so Anderson isn’t blocking anybody from developing. Joey Wendle and Jon Berti can play the position, but their defensive versatility makes it easy for Anderson to co-exist with them.

MLB Trade Rumors projects Anderson for a $4.5 million salary in his second year of arbitration eligibility. That’s cheaper than many other starting-level 3rd basemen. It is a very small risk for the Marlins, and it is also a possible opportunity to buy low on extending him for multiple years before he re-establishes himself.

Why Not to Keep Brian Anderson

From the very beginning, Marlins GM Kim Ng has been non-committal about the idea of signing Brian Anderson long term. His 2021 injury problems make that seem even more unlikely. Before the lockout, the Marlins completed multi-year deals with Sandy Alcantara, Avisaíl García and Miguel Rojas, leaving them with less room on the payroll in future years.

The Marlins are under a lot of pressure to be good in 2022. It’s hard to know what to expect from Anderson and his surgically repaired shoulder, at least for the early part of the season. Trading him away to a team in a rebuilding situation and filling his spot with a more reliable 3rd baseman could be the best move for all parties.

With this in mind, I came up with a couple hypothetical blockbuster trades that could make sense for the Marlins.

Trade #1

Marlins acquire: José Ramírez

Guardians acquire: Brian Anderson, Nasim Nuñez, Dax Fulton, Nick Neidert, Eury Pérez, and Sixto Sánchez

MLB: Miami Marlins at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Guardians seem to be going into a rebuild after missing the playoffs in 2021 and posting their worst record in nearly a decade (80-82). As painful as it would be to lose José Ramírez, he’s probably at the peak of his value right now, plus they have a strong group of infield prospects coming up through their farm system (Tyler Freeman, Nolan Jones, Gabriel Arias, Brayan Rocchio).

Ramírez would instantly become the best player on the Marlins and bring them much closer to being competitive. He’s only a few months older than Brian Anderson and far superior as a power hitter and baserunner. Also, Ramírez has rarely been injured since turning into an everyday player. With him in place, the Marlins would feel no reason to rush the development of key prospects like José Salas, José Devers and Cody Morissette.

As for the Guardians, they receive a haul of 5 prospects who ranked among the top 30 in the Marlins system. Anderson has the same two years of club control as Ramírez and would be easier to afford on an extension if he delivers a bounce-back season. Nick Neidert steps in as a potential back-end starter (can also be used in a relief role). Nasim Nuñez is as smooth as it gets at short and has immense speed. He can maybe prove to be an everyday player if he progresses with the bat. Sixto Sánchez was on his way to becoming an elite starter in 2020 before missing all of last season with a shoulder injury. Dax Fulton reached High-A in his first professional season, which is rare for any high school draft pick. Finally, maybe the centerpiece of the trade is Eury Pérez who is only 18. His combination of size, stuff and control is special.

Personally, I don’t make this trade. I want to see a year of Sixto as well as more from the young guys mentioned in this proposal. If the Marlins are in a prospect-hugging mood, then they would need to settle for somebody other than Ramírez...

Trade #2

Marlins acquire: Matt Chapman

Athletics acquire: Brian Anderson, Nasim Nuñez, Dax Fulton, Nick Neidert

The Oakland A’s are definitely ready to blow up their roster and have a recent history of working with the Marlins on trades (Starling Marte for Jesús Luzardo last July).

A former All-Star and MVP candidate, Matt Chapman just came off the worst year of his career. He hit 27 home runs—more than Brian Anderson ever has—but didn’t do much damage in his other plate appearances. This would be the Marlins betting on him to return to his 2018-19 form. Definitely high risk/high reward.

Because of that uncertainty, the A’s wouldn’t have access to elite arms like Sixto Sánchez or Eury Pérez. However, the other four pieces all have roles to play in their rebuild.

This is a trade that I would definitely make if I am the Marlins. This is a win-now trade that they can afford to make because of their organizational depth.

After weighing all of their options coming out of the lockout, I expect the Marlins to keep Brian Anderson for this season. According to the projections, he still has a lot to offer them in 2022.

  • Marcels Projections: .251 BA, .333 OBP, .427 SLG, .760 OPS, 14 HR, 49 RBI, 87 H
  • Steamer Projections: .240 BA, .326 OBP, .396 SLG, .721 OPS, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 98 H

That does not mean he’s a lock to play every day or that he will complete the season in a Marlins uniform—this is a fluid situation.

What do you see as Brian Anderson’s future on the Marlins? Comment below.