MESA, Ariz. – Brett Anderson saw and heard enough at Wrigley Field in October to send Cubs fans a "Stay classy f------ idiots" message on Twitter – and eventually realize that this is exactly the type of team he wanted to join.
It says something when Javier Baez – a defensive wizard and the co-MVP from that National League Championship Series – essentially reported to spring training as a super-utility guy without a guaranteed everyday role in the lineup.
"There's talent across the board," Anderson said. "You see a guy like Ian Happ and there's no spot for him and he's hitting a million in spring training. It's just a testament to the front office, to the depth and the talent that's here, 1 through however many people are left in camp.
"Hopefully, I can go out there and do my part and have fun watching the rest of the guys play."
That Anderson didn't make the playoff roster in either round – and only threw 11-plus innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season – speaks to the injuries that stunted his career and framed a one-year, $3.5 million incentive-laden deal.
But if Anderson stays healthy – this is someone who's been on the disabled list nine times since 2010 – he appears to have the inside track for the fifth-starter job and a chance to fulfill his vast potential at a place where the manager hawks D-PEAT T-shirts.
"He plays right into our team," Joe Maddon said. "He puts the ball on the ground. We catch the ball on the ground. It's a very exciting matchup."
As someone who led the majors with a 66.7 groundball percentage in 2015, Anderson can point to the Gold Glove first baseman (Anthony Rizzo), a World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist), an All-Star shortstop (Addison Russell) and an NL MVP known for his defensive versatility (Kris Bryant) and say: "You couldn't ask for better people behind you."
"That was another factor," Anderson said of his free-agent decision. "Who can make the plays behind me? The defense last year was at historic levels. For what I do when I'm going right, it's groundballs, and you couldn't have a better tandem up the middle."
The clips from Tuesday afternoon's 7-7 tie with the Milwaukee Brewers at Sloan Park won't be in next year's Cubs Convention highlight film. Anderson admittedly gave up "some crappy groundball hits" (six overall plus two runs in three innings), the Cubs committed two errors and this is supposed to be the most optimistic time of the year.
But Anderson says he's feeling good – knock on wood – and the Cubs can assemble the best defensive unit in The Show.
"The most obvious thing this whole camp is us playing defense the same being our key to success and getting back," Maddon said. "That's the separator right now."