Andrew Miller Rumors

The Most Improved Free Agents

Behind the scenes at MLBTR, we’re busy discussing and polishing our Top 50 Free Agents list for the 2015 offseason. While we’ll wait until the appropriate time to officially release the list, it’s not too soon to talk about a few of the players who have done the best to improve their free agent stock. In general, I’m looking at players who weren’t even on the radar when Steve Adams kicked off our 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings series on April 15. Today, we’ll take a look at a pure hitter, a starting pitcher, and an elite reliever.

1. Victor Martinez. I’m sure Martinez’s appearance on this list is of no surprise. When we compiled our initial power rankings post, 25 players were named. Martinez was not one of them. The 35-year-old designated hitter is limited in defensive versatility, but his bat is clearly elite. He is enjoying a fantastic offensive season with a .335/.404/.566 line and 31 home runs. All are career bests. He’s even stolen three bases (also a career best). The exceptional performance comes with a 10.5% walk rate and 6.6% strikeout rate, making him one of just two players with more walks than strikeouts (Jose Bautista is the other).

Martinez, who earned $12MM this season, will receive a qualifying offer, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. It’s difficult to handicap how the slugger will perform on the free agent market. The only recent comparable player is David Ortiz, although the short contracts he signed with the Red Sox do not appear to be directly applicable to Martinez’s situation.

The Tigers will have some leverage in retaining Martinez, where he can continue to hit with Miguel Cabrera. The White Sox are also said to be interested, per Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com. Chicago appears to be an ideal fit with its extremely hitter friendly stadium (Detroit’s Comerica Park is a neutral stadium), and he would make a good tandem with Jose Abreu. We seem to have the basic ingredients for a bidding war, and other teams will likely enter the fray.

2. Brandon McCarthy. What a fascinating season it’s been for McCarthy. His fastball gained two mph over previous seasons, and he’s posted the highest ground ball rate of his career at 52.7%. While his 3.93 ERA is merely decent, advanced ERA estimators like xFIP (2.90) and SIERA (3.03) expect better things to come. He’s also buffed his strikeout rate to 7.72 K/9 while maintaining an elite walk rate of 1.53 BB/9.

McCarthy was easy to overlook entering the season. His command and control profile made him a steady but uninspired rotation option. His first 18 starts came with the Diamondbacks, where he flashed excellent peripherals with an unseemly 5.01 ERA. He was dealt to the Yankees prior to the July trade deadline. In 13 starts, he’s pitched to a 2.54 ERA that is supported by his peripherals. Many pundits (including this one) worried about the influence of Yankee Stadium on the homer prone starter, but his HR/FB ratio has regressed to league average in New York.

Prior to this season, he never managed more than 170 and two-thirds major league innings in a single season. That came in 2011. He’s frequently dealt with injuries including recurring “stress reactions” in his pitching shoulder. His most recent shoulder injury occurred in 2012. This season, he’s managed a career high 194 and two-thirds innings with a chance to eclipse the 200 inning threshold.

A sabermetrically inclined front office – especially one with a large ballpark – could justifiably view McCarthy as the fourth best free agent starter, after the triumvirate of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields. McCarthy’s history of shoulder problems will likely temper enthusiasm for a large contract offer. That might serve to increase demand by making him an affordable, second-tier option. McCarthy, who is entering his age 31 season, could top the four-year, $49 million contract signed by Ricky Nolasco last offseason. However, a smart club would include language to mitigate risk from future shoulder flare-ups.

3. Andrew Miller. If Miller was on anybody’s radar entering the season, it was as a moderately interesting LOOGY. By halving his walk rate and proving he’s no platoon pitcher, Miller will enter the offseason as an untested but possibly elite closing option. Due to his inexperience recording saves, clubs may still look at him as a setup reliever.

Split between the Red Sox and Orioles, the 30-year-old southpaw has posted a 1.93 ERA in 60 and two-thirds innings. His 14.84 K/9 is impressive, especially in light of his 2.37 BB/9. He’s allowed just 32 hits on the season and is one of three relievers to cross the 100 strikeout threshold – four others appear poised to do so by the end of the season.

No recent left-handed reliever has entered free agency coming off of such a strong season, which puts Miller in uncharted waters. Jeremy Affeldt, who signed a three-year, $18MM contract with the Giants following the 2012 season is a distant comparable. Joaquin Benoit is probably the best example among recent right-handed pitchers. He signed a two-year, $15.5MM contract with an option after emerging as the Tigers closer. However, he was also entering his age 36 season, so he was considerably older than Miller. Per the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, no non-closing reliever has signed a contract with over a $20MM guarantee. Miller has a chance to be the first. Prior to the 2007 season, Justin Speier signed a four-year, $18MM contract that could serve as a barometer of sorts once inflation is included.


AL East Notes: Miller, Robertson, Pearce

Michael Jordan’s presence at Derek Jeter‘s home celebration made the day extra special for the Yankees legend, writes Marty Noble of MLB.com.  Derek Jeter Day would have been an extraordinary event without MJ, of course, but No. 23′s appearance served as the most powerful exclamation point available.  Here’s today’s look at the AL East..

  • Even though the Red Sox traded him away, Andrew Miller would be open to a Boston return, writes Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.  “I certainly have relationships with a lot of people here,” he said. “I loved my time here. There’s no secret to that. My wife and I loved it here. It’s a great place to play, the way you get treated by the organization. It’s a great place to live. It’s a hard situation to leave. “If I could script it, I’d say, certainly, I’d love to be back.”  In 65 games between the Red Sox and Orioles this season, Miller has pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 14.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
  • The Yankees have a decision to make with closer David Robertson with his one-year, $5.215MM deal expiring at season’s end, writes Brendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger.  The most likely scenario, he says, would be for the Yanks to extend him a one-year, ~$15MM qualifying offer.   While that’s a lot of money to give to a reliever, it would buy the Yankees time before making a long-term commitment.  Kuty sees an extension as less likely and says there’s no chance of the Bombers letting him walk for nothing.
  • Steve Pearce, who has bounced around baseball quite a bit, may have finally found a home with the Orioles, writes Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com.  Pearce has had his ups and downs in 2014, but he now finds himself as a regular at first base for a first-place team.

AL East Notes: Orioles, Melky, Ortiz

Miguel Gonzalez‘s name was mentioned in trade rumors this summer (most notably as part of a possible Jon Lester package) and yet as MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko points out, Gonzalez’s recent success could be another example of “how sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.”  The Orioles right-hander has a 2.00 ERA over his last nine starts, including a complete game shutout of the Reds last Wednesday.  Gonzalez has been a solid piece of the O’s rotation for the last three years and has a 3.38 ERA over 136 IP this season, which I suspect will earn him a nice salary bump this winter when he is arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Also from Kubatko, the Orioles are “hesitant” about making a long-term commitment to Nelson Cruz.  Though the O’s have recently had some light negotiations with Cruz’s representation about a new contract, it isn’t hard to see why the club would be wary of guaranteeing multiple years to a 34-year-old who is a defensive liability and has a PED history.  Of course, Cruz’s bat looks as potent as ever, given his .862 OPS and a league-high 39 homers this season.  As you would expect, a one-year “qualifying offer appeals to the Orioles,” Kubatko writes, though surely Cruz feels his production merits a longer deal.
  • Melky Cabrera has been scouted by at least one NL team for the last three weeks, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair reports.  One of those scouts tells Blair that his team could be willing to offer Cabrera something in the neighborhood of a four-year, $53MM contract in free agency this winter, a deal akin to what Jhonny Peralta received from the Cardinals last offseason.  Peralta’s deal was front-loaded, and Blair opines that a similarly-structured deal could await Cabrera given that both players have a PED suspension on their records.
  • Blair also can’t figure out why the Blue Jays haven’t already re-signed Cabrera for 2015 and beyond, given how well the outfielder has hit this year.  Cabrera, who is done for the season after fracturing his pinky finger on Friday night, has expressed an interest in staying in Toronto.
  • It’s been a tiring season for David Ortiz, as the Red Sox slugger tells ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald that “it wears you out more than when you know you’re going to the playoffs — believe it or not. It wears you out more than when you know you have more games to play.”  Ortiz isn’t sure how much longer he’ll play beyond 2015 (the end of his current contract), though when he does he hang it up, he said he’ll do it in the offseason rather than announce his retirement a year in advance like Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera.
  • Red Sox righty Joe Kelly and the OriolesAndrew Miller were two trade deadline acquisitions that have worked out very well for their teams, Peter Gammons writes in his latest piece for Gammons Daily.  Boston hopes Kelly can be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in their 2015 rotation while Miller has continued his superb season since joining Baltimore’s pen.
  • Also from Gammons, if the Orioles don’t bring back Nick Markakis, one possible replacement could be prospect Mike Yastrzemski.  A 14th-round draft pick in 2013, Yastrzemski (Carl’s grandson) hit .288/.346/.490 with 14 homers, 34 doubles and 16 triples in 594 PA over three minor league levels this season, though he has yet to reach Triple-A.


AL East Notes: Miller, Beltran, Lester, Pompey

Andrew Miller‘s transition from the Red Sox to the Orioles has gone smoothly, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com reports. “There’s a ton of differences. Things in general match up,” says Miller, for whom the Orioles traded at last month’s deadline. “The winning teams I’ve been on have a nice, loose clubhouse that expects to win.” Miller has pitched brilliantly in his first 7 1/3 innings with the Orioles, striking out 11 and walking three while allowing just two hits and one run. Here’s more from around the AL East.

  • Carlos Beltran will see a doctor after feeling something wrong with his elbow while swinging last night, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. The Yankees scratched Beltran from their lineup tonight. It’s been a rough season for Beltran, who’s hit .233/.291/.416 (weak numbers for a DH/OF with little defensive value) while battling injury in the first year of a $45MM deal.
  • Jon Lester is not likely to return to the Red Sox this offseason, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Instead, the Yankees and Cubs could emerge as possible suitors. It is, perhaps, no surprise that the Red Sox aren’t considered the favorites to sign him — they just traded him, and reportedly weren’t close in extension negotiations before that. Lester should be able to get a six- or seven-year deal in free agency, Heyman writes, and the Red Sox are likely to consider that to be too risky. Heyman does note, however, that the Red Sox may have been prepared to offer Lester five years and $100MM last month.
  • The Blue Jays have promoted top outfield prospect Dalton Pompey to Triple-A Buffalo. Pompey, 21, hit .295/.378/.473 in 127 plate appearances at Double-A New Hampshire. MLB.com ranks Pompey the No. 3 prospect in the Jays’ system (behind Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez), praising his plate discipline and speed.

Cafardo On Blue Jays, Kemp, Red Sox, Stanton

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the waiver deadline period could produce some significant deals around baseball. The Phillies probably won’t find deals for Jonathan Papelbon (contract) and Cliff Lee (health concerns plus contract) but A.J. Burnett could conceivably be moved.  Meanwhile, the Blue Jays continue to, as one executive said to Cafardo, “kick the tires on just about everything but never seem to do anything.”  More from today’s column..

  • The Red Sox may have been scouting Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but their dialogue with the Dodgers was virtually nonexistent despite the constant rumors connecting the two.  The Dodgers, Cafardo writes, were never going to deal Kemp, who has been one of their best right-handed hitters.
  • The Dodgers were also never really in on Red Sox hurlers Jon Lester or John Lackey but really wanted Andrew Miller and came close to giving Boston one of their best pitching prospects for him.
  • It seems as if the Red Sox and other teams have finally come to the realization that Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton isn’t going anywhere and that could be a reason why the Red Sox obtained Yoenis Cespedes, who obviously isn’t as good but has the power and athleticism to improve. For now, he seems to feel that Miami is moving in the right direction and appears to be all in on staying with the Marlins.
  • The buzz around baseball is that the Cubs will be all in on Jon Lester.  Cubs president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod were in Boston with Lester during his trying times.  Also, the Cubs will have to rebuild their rotation at some point and adding Lester would be a major, major step in that direction.

NL West Links: Miller, Sabean, Rockies

Here’s the latest from around the NL West…

  • The Dodgers were the runner-up for Andrew Miller, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets.  This seems to run counter to an item from earlier today when Ken Rosenthal reported that it was the Brewers and Tigers who were the other finalists to obtain Miller from the Red Sox.  The Orioles, of course, were the ones who actually landed the left-hander.
  • Giants GM Brian Sabean didn’t make any last moves before the deadline and felt good about keeping his team’s prospects, Sabean told reporters (including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle).  The Giants felt it didn’t make sense to meet the high asking prices of some teams, though Sabean said he was pleased that a number of clubs were interested in his pitching prospects.
  • Sabean said he was “homing in on two” second basemen in possible deals, though a source says that these weren’t necessarily Asdrubal Cabrera or Emilio Bonifacio, two middle infielders who changed teams yesterday.
  • The Rockies also had a quiet deadline day, which assistant GM Bill Geivett told reporters (including Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post) was due to a lack of offers that would’ve helped Colorado reload for next year.  I think the big thing was — our posture — is probably one that we would entertain a deal as far as making us better in 2015.  Although we were active and had some talks, we really weren’t moved to the point where we had anything that would significantly affect us next season,” Geivett said.
  • Jorge De La Rosa and Brett Anderson drew some trade interest, and though De La Rosa is a free agent and Anderson has a $12MM club option to be exercised, it seems as if the Rockies have an interest in retaining both.  If we didn’t feel like they would potentially be part of our future, we would have traded them,” Geivett said.
  • In other NL West news from earlier today, Matt Cain seems likely to undergo elbow surgery and the Giants designated Dan Uggla and Tyler Colvin for assignment.

Rosenthal On Cardinals, Miller, Price, Beane

Here are some notes from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal as he looks back on an incredibly busy Deadline Day…

  • Several Cardinals players were unhappy that Allen Craig and Joe Kelly were traded away, which didn’t necessarily surprise St. Louis GM John Mozeliak.  “We’ve had a tight clubhouse for many years, a lot of homegrown players who have been together a long time….When you have a young team, sometimes you don’t see these types of trades happening while you’re competing,” Mozeliak told Rosenthal.  “It caught some people off-guard. But time will heal all wounds.”  Rosenthal wonders if this trade and the recent signing of “notorious irritant” A.J. Pierzynski could’ve been made in order to shake up a clubhouse that had “perhaps grown too comfortable.”
  • The Brewers and Tigers were the other finalists for Andrew Miller‘s services before the Red Sox decided to trade the southpaw to the Orioles.  Boston received inquiries from between 10-12 teams about Miller’s services. Jon Morosi, Rosenthal’s FOX Sports colleague, reported yesterday that Detroit was close to a deal for Miller about 2.5 hours before the trade with Baltimore was finalized.
  • Some pundits have argued that the Rays should’ve gotten more from the Tigers and Mariners in the David Price trade, but Rosenthal is withholding judgement given how difficult the circumstances were for Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman.  The return could’ve been even less had Friedman waited until the offseason to move his ace.
  • In a tweet, Rosenthal notes that the Athletics decided against pursuing a Price trade in part because GM Billy Beane was worried that it would be tough to deal the southpaw this winter.  Price could earn up to $20MM on his 2015 contract in his last year of arbitration eligibility, so as good as the left-hander is, the salary and only the one year of control would limit Price’s trade value.

Orioles Acquire Andrew Miller

The Orioles have issued an announcement of the 1-for-1 swap of lefties. Baltimore will acquire Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller, as Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com first reported (via Twitter).

In return, Boston has picked up left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, per a tweet from Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com (via Twitter) first reported that a young arm was included in the deal.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers

Rodriguez represents a significant return for Boston on Miller, who emerged as the most sought-after left-handed reliever but is set to reach free agency at year’s end. He had been nothing short of dominant this year, posting 14.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 and generating a 52.5% groundball rate.

Miller’s excellent 2.34 ERA is actually higher than advanced metrics would suggest, as Miller owns lower marks per ERA estimators such as FIP (1.69), xFIP (1.76) and SIERA (1.42). Miller has held down both lefties (.420 OPS) and righties (.537 OPS) on the year.

Rodriguez came into the year as Baltimore’s 3rd-best overall prospect, per Baseball America. The 21-year-old has not taken a step forward at Double-A, however, as he owns a 4.79 ERA with 7.5 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 through 82 2/3 innings on the year. Though he profiles more as a middle-of-the-rotation arm, Rodriguez had been on a fast track to the big leagues and still has plenty of value.


Latest On Andrew Miller: Tigers, Braves Out Of Pursuit

1:57pm: The Braves are also out on Miller, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).

1:23pm: The Tigers are not going to land Miller, tweets ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes.

12:18pm: The Tigers are getting close on a deal to acquire Red Sox lefty Andrew Miller, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Originally drafted by Detroit, Miller was part of the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers.

Miller has made fairly significant leaps in performance over each of the past two years, settling into a pen role. In 2014, he has been among the most dominant relievers in baseball, striking out 14.7 batters per nine while walking just 2.8.

Detroit, of course, has already made quite a significant bullpen addition by adding Joakim Soria. But the club has also received suboptimal production from its southpaw pieces (Ian Krol and Phil Coke, primarily), seemingly leading to the interest in Miller. Of course, the club had an excellent left-hander in the pen in Drew Smyly, but moved him to the rotation as part of the team’s offseason reshuffling (which, of course, included dealing away Doug Fister for a return that included Krol and signing closer Joe Nathan).

Though it would be foolhardy to predict a hypothetical return, Miller is expected to draw fairly significant value given his dominance, though he is a free agent at the end of the year. The sides have previously discussed righty Austin Kubitza in a Miller deal, Morosi tweets, though it is not known if he is still part of the conversation. Kubitza is rated as Detroit’s 7th-overall prospect by MLB.com.


Andrew Miller Draws Big Interest; Tigers Making Push

Boston’s Andrew Miller has been the most talked-about left-handed relief option on the trade market, and with good reason. The impending free agent has pitched to a 2.34 ERA with dazzling secondary stats: 14.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 52.5 percent ground-ball rate. ERA estimators such as FIP (1.69), xFIP (1.76) and SIERA (1.42) feel that Miller has been even better than that 2.34 mark, and he’s dominated both lefties (.420 OPS) and righties (.537 OPS) this season.

Here’s the latest …

  • The Tigers are “making a big push” on Miller, tweets ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.
  • There is some internal resistance to moving Miller, tweets Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. If that is the case, Edes wonders whether the club would instead consider dealing closer Koji Uehara.
  • Another club that is a possible landing spot at this point is the Pirates, tweets McAdam.
  • The Orioles are also in on Miller, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
  • Boston expects to deal Miller by this afternoon, tweets Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. Offers are rising with strong interest from many clubs, he adds.
  • The Tigers have strong interest in acquiring Miller to bolster their bullpen for a potential postseason matchup with the A’s or Angels, tweets Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM/670 The Score.
  • The Red Sox are being “swarmed” with offers for Miller, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Needless to say, the club has kept its asking price high in light of the demand. A rival executive tells Nightengale that Miller is holding up the rest of the market.

Earlier Updates

  • Jon Lester helped the Red Sox out last week by publicly stating that he’d be willing to re-sign with Boston if traded, and it appears that Boston thinks the same scenario could play out with lefty reliever Andrew Miller. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald spoke to a source (Twitter link) who told him that the Sox “believe they have built up enough good will that [Miller would] consider coming back as free agent.”
  • Miller has drawn interest from the Braves, Royals, Dodgers and Pirates, but the asking price is said to be very high. The Sox are reportedly seeking a rival team’s top prospect and a lesser prospect in order to move their dominant setup man. Earning just $1.9MM in 2014, Miller is owed only $633K through season’s end.