This contract is deeper and more complex than the White Sox let on in their announcement of the deal. At the very least, the deal is six-years, $25 million guaranteed. This will buy out all of Anderson’s arbitration years and with only 115 days of major league service time, he would not have qualified for free agency until 2022. Anderson would have hit salary arbitration in 2020. During the guaranteed years, Anderson will receive salaries of $850K, $1MM, $1.4MM, $4MM, $7.25MM, and $9.5MM.
Anderson will be 29 when the White Sox can use their club options for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. The organization values his production until free agency at $25 million (including a $1MM buyout). They value the two club options, which would be two of his free agency seasons, at $26.5 million ($12.5MM and $14MM respectively). If both options are exercised, Anderson’s contract could be an eight-year, $51.5 million deal.
There are not many contracts to compare this agreement to. In terms of players with less than one year of service time, Anderson’s contract will be the largest guaranteed contract in MLB history (beating the $20MM agreement between the Rays and Chris Archer from 2014). In Anderson’s case, players in the +2 years of service time category are receiving similar contracts (Ender Inciarte: $30MM, Kolten Wong: $25.5MM, Adam Eaton: $23.5MM). The White Sox are thinking they can gain cost certainty now on a player that is trending towards being an above-average player.
What are the White Sox getting in Tim Anderson?
The White Sox are locking up their lead-off man. Anderson, the 17th pick in the 2013 draft, earned a midseason call-up from Triple-A last season. He impressed team management on his big league debut, batting .283 with 57 runs.
Anderson’s biggest strength is his speed, demonstrated by his high batting average on balls in play (.375). He has a talent for stretching singles into doubles and stretching doubles into triples. Once on, Anderson is a threat to steal. Between time in Triple-A and the major leagues, he swiped 21 bags last season.
The problem for the 23-year old has been getting on base. He struggled to a .291 OBP with the big league team last season, below league average for leadoff hitters. The primary contributor to the poor on-base percentage has been poor plate discipline. In 99 games with the White Sox last season Anderson paired a 27% strikeout rate with a walk rate of 3%. Normally prospects making the transition to the majors see a higher strikeout rate; however, Anderson’s strikeout rate in the minors was still below average at 22.7%, and his walk rate was almost identical at 3.1%.
In the field, Anderson is a solid if unspectacular defender. Fangraphs credits him with 6 defensive runs saved in the 2016 season to go along with a .965 fielding percentage. Those numbers put Anderson below the elite tier of shortstops occupied by slick-fielding shortstops like Lindor, Correa, and Bogaerts, but by no means make him a defensive liability.
Anderson’s biggest weakness–his plate discipline–may improve with more big league experience, but as leadoff hitters go he will always be closer to Billy Hamilton than Dee Gordon in batting average and OBP.
Future For Anderson And White Sox
This contract is the beginning of a new era for the White Sox. A team in the midst of a rebuild, Anderson represents the future. Anderson is a player that leads by example and is already highly popular with the fans. Anderson has stated that he wants to be a member of the White Sox for the long haul:
Overall, this deal moves the rebuild forward for the White Sox. As the team becomes more successful, the cost control they gain with this deal will allow them to make more aggressive moves. As for the fans, they gain a player that they can connect with and watch grow. Tim Anderson will be the face of the White Sox for years to come.