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Andrew Miller Rumors
The Yankees addressed two major needs earlier today when they completed a three-team deal to land shortstop Didi Gregorius and later signed reliever Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36MM deal. Since the Miller deal came to light, some have wondered whether he will displace free agent David Robertson as the team’s closer. In a conference call earlier today, GM Brian Cashman left the door open for Robertson but also made it clear that he’ll be addressing other needs as well.
“We’ll wait and see. We’re still evaluating all opportunities in this market place,” Cashman said. “We need to address the left side of the infield, the starting rotation, finding a fourth outfielder…we’ll evaluate every opportunity that comes our way and with all the moving pieces that we have going on, we have to take a serious interest in all of those things and I can’t predict how that will go.”
If one thing is for certain in Cashman’s mind, it’s that there is plenty more work to be done this winter. He told reporters that he is in “acquisition mode” this offseason as the Yankees look to take care of their multiple needs. Still, he won’t prioritize one area over another as intends to pounce on whatever opportunities and strong fits come his way.
Of course, he trimmed down the checklist a good amount today with the acquisitions of Miller and Gregorius. As Cashman explained, his pursuit of the young shortstop has been going on for some time.
“He’s a young athletic shortstop and his defense is very good. He’s struggled against left-handed pitching and we believe he hits right-handed pitching well, so I think at the very least, we open up 2015 with him in a platoon with Brendan Ryan until he separates himself. So, the high end projection is that we think there’s more in the tank there as he continues to develop. We think he’s an exciting talent, but honestly he’s not a finished product.
“He’s someone we targeted not just this winter, but in past seasons, both with the old regime and the new regime. I had to go through another club to get my hands on him. We believe we’re in a better place than we were before we had him,” Cashman explained.
Even though Cashman was happy to finally get his man, it was difficult for him to part with right-hander Shane Greene in order to make it happen. In the end, Cashman felt that Greene established himself as a promising talent after last season, but that was the price he had to pay in order to get an up-and-coming player at a premium position.
While today’s acquisitions will be counted on for big performances in 2014, Cashman knows that it’ll be even more crucial for the Bombers to get strong play out of their veterans coming back from injury. Alex Rodriguez‘s name was mentioned alongside the likes of Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann, but he was noticeably left out when Cashman noted that he has one possibility to play third base (Martin Prado) on the roster. When asked to expand, Cashman explained that he’s only hoping for, not banking on, A-Rod to be a factor at third base.
“I think it’s every color on the rainbow. The extreme hope is that you can get the middle of the lineup bat to play third whenever you want, if not all the time. The worst case scenario is that he’s no longer a third baseman and doesn’t have that bat and you’re looking other places,” said the GM.
Ultimately, Prado could wind up being slotted in at second or third base and Cashman sounded like someone who was equally open to either possibility. Figuring out a solution for one of those two positions will be amongst the Bombers’ top priorities going forward, but the crazy nature of the baseball offseason means that Cashman will have to be equal parts proactive and reactive in filling the team’s holes. Whether the Yankees put more resources into the infield or, say, fortifying the starting rotation will hinge on what opportunities present themselves in the coming weeks.
“I will gravitate faster to whatever presents itself as the most interesting option. I will have to act accordingly because there are many teams with the same needs as us,” Cashman said.
5:27pm: Miller will receive a straight $9MM annual salary, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The deal does not include any options.
2:38pm: Earlier today the Yankees acquired Didi Gregorius in a three-team trade, and that was just the beginning of the splash they’re making, as they’ve now also announced the signing of Andrew Miller to a four-year contract. Miller, a client of Frontline Athlete Management, will reportedly receive a $36MM guarantee, but the contract does not include a no-trade clause.
The 29-year-old Miller (30 next May) broke out in a huge way in 2014, pitching to a 2.02 ERA with an eye-popping 14.9 K/9 (an AL record), 2.5 BB/9 and a 46.9 percent ground-ball rate in 62 1/2 innings for the Red Sox and Orioles. He went on to throw another 7 1/3 shutout innings with an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio in the postseason as well. Miller will pair with Dellin Betances — an electric breakout story himself — at the back of the Yankee bullpen, giving manager Joe Girardi a pair of dominant late-inning options. Joel Sherman of the New York Post expects Miller to be used to close games, but not exclusively, as Betances will likely be in the mix for save opportunities as well (Twitter link).
Of course, Girardi is accustomed to that feeling, as he was able to enjoy excellent work from David Robertson and Mariano Rivera from 2011-13, and then Robertson and Betances this past season. The Miller signing doesn’t necessarily preclude the Yankees from retaining Robertson, as some reports have indicated that it’s at least possible for GM Brian Cashman to spend to bring both elite relievers to the Bronx. That would give the Yankees a Royals-esque late-inning trio, though the team may also simply replace Robertson with Miller and collect a draft pick when their closer signs elsewhere.
Miller’s contract is the largest ever for a non-closing reliever — a nice feather in the cap of agent Mark Rodgers. Rafael Soriano had previously signed a three-year, $35MM contract to set up for the Yankees, though he had prior closing experience. Scott Linebrink signed a four-year, $19MM contract with the White Sox that was the largest guarantee for a setup man that had never closed.
As excellent as Miller was in 2014, the contract is clearly not without risk for the Yankees. Setting aside the volatile nature of all relievers, this past season marked the first year in which Miller displayed above-average control and was also the first in which he was allowed to face both right-and left-handed hitters in a full setup capacity. Miller averaged 4.7 walks per nine innings from 2012-13 (5.0 in 2013) and totaled just 71 innings in that time due to a combination of a more limited role and injuries. Miller suffered a lis-franc fracture in his foot in 2013 and missed time in 2012 with a strained hamstring. This past season he faced 144 righties and 98 lefties, but in 2013 he faced a much more even 73 righties and 62 lefties. In 2012, he was deployed mostly as a lefty specialist, pitching to 102 left-handed hitters and just 67 right-handed batters.
The Miller situation has likely handcuffed the free agent reliever market to some extent. As many as 23 clubs showed interest in him, though in recent days it seemed that the Astros, Dodgers and Yankees were among the final clubs standing. With one of the top two names off the board — Robertson being the other — more relief signings figure to trickle in, especially considering the fact that Robertson’s market figures to be limited to a smaller number of teams, given his higher asking price.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Teams are expecting Andrew Miller to make his decision today, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman adds that the Yankees are willing to guarantee a fourth season if it limits the average annual value of the contract.
Miller has been connected to the Yankees, Dodgers and Astros in the past 48 hours, with the Red Sox and Orioles said to have bowed out the bidding. More recently, the Astros were reported to be an unlikely destination for Miller, who is expected to receive a four-year contract that could approach $40MM. That amount (or anything close to it) would easily set the record for largest guarantee and highest AAV for a non-closing relief pitcher.
Orioles GM Dan Duquette talked shop with fans earlier tonight at a team function. After a week in which outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis signed with new teams, the focus is on the O’s next step. Although Baltimore will miss the pair of outfielders, they still have money to spend, tweets Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Here’s more from Duquette’s Q&A session.
- A deal with Markakis was “fairly close a couple times,” tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. However, concern over a herniated disc may have disrupted negotiations (tweet). Asked why a qualifying offer was made to Cruz and not Markakis, Duquette responded by saying Cruz’s production justified the offer, tweets Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com
- In a series of tweets from Encina (links to Twitter), Duquette is comfortable with internal outfield options like Alejandro De Aza, David Lough, and Steve Pearce. On the farm, Dariel Alvarez and Mike Yastrzemski could play a role next season, although both may benefit from additional seasoning. The club will focus on upgrading the outfield and bullpen.
- The Orioles and free agent Delmon Young have “dialogue going,” per Kubatko (tweet). The 29-year-old outfielder was effective for the O’s in a limited role last season. Among the highlights, he hit .302/.337/.442 in 255 regular season plate appearances and had a couple clutch hits during the postseason.
- On the subject of reliever Andrew Miller, 23 clubs showed interest, tweets Kubatko. Duquette stressed that the Baltimore market isn’t ideal for a highly paid reliever, which is why they are not among the finalists.
- Duquette mentioned that interviews for the club’s hitting coach job were ongoing, tweets Encina. Some have already been conducted while others will be held during the upcoming Winter Meetings. No word yet on specific candidates.
TODAY, 7:59am: Miller is expected to make a decision today or tomorrow, an executive who had been involved with the bidding tells Sherman (Twitter link).
YESTERDAY, 10:00pm: The Astros appear unlikely to land Miller, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports.
9:40pm: New York appears to be willing to give Miller a fourth year, Heyman adds on Twitter.
8:08pm: The Yankees appear to be one of two or three finalists, Heyman writes. He says that the Dodgers seem to be back in the pack now, while the Astros remain a “possible threat.” The Red Sox, meanwhile, “seem to be out on Miller at the moment,” according to Heyman.
2:25pm: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Yankees do have serious interest in Miller, but their stance is much the same as it is regarding David Robertson: they’ll give three guaranteed years but are hesitant to lock in the fourth season.
1:38pm: Andrew Miller is moving closer to a contract that will guarantee him close to $40MM over a four-year term, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and the Yankees and Dodgers are two of the teams in play. Heyman writes that the Red Sox appear to be out of the bidding at this point, and Miller could reach an agreement within the next 48 hours.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently indicated that the Red Sox are still showing strong interest, and he also listed the Astros as a club with serious interest. The 29-year-old Miller is coming off an elite season in which he posted a combined 2.02 ERA with 14.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 62 1/3 regular season innings between the Red Sox and Orioles. He added 7 1/3 scoreless frames with an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio in the postseason as well.
The proposed figures would shatter the record for a non-closing reliever. Scott Linebrink previously signed a four-year, $19MM with the White Sox, which stands out as the largest guarantee. Tim Dierkes made a fairly aggressive four-year, $32MM projection back in late October, and it seems that Miller is poised to top that number.
The Royals have reached out to a familiar name in the form of Melky Cabrera, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s not clear if the Royals are able to afford Cabrera, who is said by Heyman to be seeking “at least” a five-year deal. He notes that the Reds have also contacted Cabrera’s camp. Additionally, Heyman lists the Mariners, Orioles and White Sox as speculative fits. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that the Blue Jays are still in touch with Cabrera as well. As many have pointed out, Toronto has just three outfielders on its 40-man roster at present. I profiled Cabrera in early October and projected a five-year deal worth just over $66MM.
Some more notes from the free agent market…
- Also seeking a five-year deal is right-hander Ervin Santana, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Santana is among the best of the bunch in the second tier of free agent starters, and he’s been rumored to have mutual interest with the Royals. However, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals’ comfort level is at three years with Santana. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected a four-year, $56MM contract for Santana.
- Continuing on the theme of five-year contracts, Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reports that the Yankees aren’t willing to give Chase Headley a five-year deal, and it’s believed by some that five years is now his asking price in the wake of both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez signing in Boston. An alternative for the Yankees, Matthews writes, is to play Martin Prado at third base regularly and give prospect Rob Refsnyder a chance to be the everyday second baseman.
- The Yankees, Red Sox and Astros are all continuing to show strong interest in free agent lefty Andrew Miller, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Miller is believed to be headed for a four-year deal, and the Astros have been somewhat surprisingly linked to him and fellow top reliever David Robertson.
- Geovany Soto is currently talking to five or six teams, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. A reunion between Soto and the Rangers is a definite possibility, per Cotillo. The free agent market for catchers has few options remaining, putting Soto in a relatively good spot.
- Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that 10 teams, including the Tigers, have reached out to free agent righty Ronald Belisario after he was designated for assignment by the White Sox and chose to elect free agency (Twitter link). Belisario has a track record of success but struggled in 2014 despite maintaining his velocity and ground-ball rate.
- Nyjer Morgan is eyeing a return to the Majors and has drawn interest from both MLB and Asian clubs, tweets Cotillo. The 34-year-old spent a bit of time with the Indians last season but had his Cleveland tenure cut short by injury.
Jake Peavy acknowledges that he had an up-and-down season and tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that he feels he has a lot to prove in free agency. However, the 33-year-old righty tells Crasnick that he actually enjoys the skepticism surrounding him after his struggles in Boston and in the postseason with San Francisco. “I need to have people doubting me, because that’s when you dig deep and find out what you’re made of,” Peavy explains. Crasnick spoke to a number of scouts and executives that all feel Peavy is a perfectly capable fourth starter at this point in his career, even if he’s not capable of being the ace he once was. “He’s not a No. 1 or a 2 by any stretch,” a scout tells Crasnick. “But if you have a deep team and you can give him a [Tim] Hudson type of deal and plug him into the 4 or 5 spot, I think he’s worth that.” (Hudson signed for two years and $23MM.) Crasnick hears that the Marlins have already had discussions with Peavy’s camp this offseason. Crasnick’s article has several excellent quotes from scouts and execs on Peavy’s current free agent stock and abilities on the mound.
Here’s more from baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- John Harper of the New York Daily News still isn’t convinced that the Yankees won’t make a run at Max Scherzer, and he spoke with one executive (that he describes as “friendly” with GM Brian Cashman) who shares that view. The exec noted that while Cashman would love to build from within and hates the idea of surrendering a first-round pick, turning to Scherzer and Andrew Miller while letting David Robertson sign elsewhere would net the Yankees a fairly similar selection to their No. 19 overall pick. Harper also wonders if the leak of the Yankees’ interest in Miller was, to some extent, a deliberate tactic to put extra pressure on Robertson to re-sign.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Yankees are currently more likely to sign Miller than Robertson, though he eventually notes that the Bombers haven’t ruled out signing both relievers to pair with the electric Dellin Betances as a dynamic bullpen trio. Heyman, too, notes that the Yankees likely see some merit in the idea of pursuing the slightly cheaper Miller while letting Robertson walk to earn a compensatory draft pick.
- Though much has been made about the Cubs, Rockies, D’Backs and Mariners as a potential trade partner to fill the Mets‘ hole at shortstop, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the Red Sox are an interesting partner as well. Prospect Deven Marrero is said to be available in trades, Martino writes, and the Red Sox have a well-documented need for starting pitching, making the two sides a good fit on paper.
- The Orioles have lost Nelson Cruz to free agency and are facing the possibility of losing Nick Markakis as well, prompting Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports to list a short-term deal with Colby Rasmus as a possibility for the O’s should Markakis land elsewhere (Twitter link).
Here’s the latest on the market for bullpen arms:
- As the Jays look to make bullpen improvements that will align with the team’s other significant additions, the club has not ruled out a run at David Robertson, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted that Robertson would score a four-year deal that exceeds $50MM, and he seems within range of achieving that contract if he can push the bidding up to that fourth year.
- If the Astros don’t land Robertson, the team could shift its sights to Sergio Romo, Heyman tweets. The 31-year-old had a down year, but still delivers strong strikeout numbers while holding free passes to a minimum.
- The Astros also have interest in the market’s other top option, lefty Andrew Miller, per Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. He could be an alternative to Robertson as a closer target, the report indicates.
- Another team with interest in Miller is the Yankees, with Joel Sherman of the New York Post confirming (via Twitter) the report from ESPN.com’s Buster Olney earlier today. As Sherman notes, New York has thus far declined to push into the four-year territory for Robertson, but may have to do so for Miller if the club hopes to be competitive. New York is also poking around the trade market for late-inning arms, per George A. King III of the New York Post.
- Though the Mets have had at least some interest in lefty Joe Beimel in past years, he is not presently being considered, according to a tweet from Mike Puma of the New York Post. New York is one of many teams with at least one opening for a left-handed reliever.
- Rehabbing southpaw Sean Burnett will not sign over the winter, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The once-excellent Burnett has struggled through two injury-plagued campaigns with the Angels. He will target a return to the practice hill this spring, per the report, and hopes to be ready to sign during the upcoming season.
10:53am: The Dodgers are also in serious pursuit of Miller, tweets Olney.
8:37am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that he just spoke with Miller’s agent, who confirmed the Yankees’ interest but said New York is one of multiple teams still in the mix and wouldn’t classify a front-runner.
7:47am: The Yankees are in “serious pursuit” of lefty Andrew Miller, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). Olney adds that given the teams that are showing the most interest in Miller, a four-year deal is likely, as others have indicated.
Miller was said last week to have multiple three-year offers already in hand, leading to further speculation that four years was the likely outcome. Over the weekend, reports indicated that he’d pared his list of possible destinations down to eight clubs, with AL East rivals Boston and Baltimore among the teams to have shown interest. On Saturday, Miller’s agent, Mark Rodgers, told the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo that the lefty was advancing toward a decision.
MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes pegged Miller for a four-year, $32MM contract in his free agent profile back in mid-October, but given the significant interest in Miller, it seems possible he tops that average annual value. If the Yankees are indeed the team to pay that premium, it could serve as an unofficial means of closing the book on their long relationship with David Robertson — the top reliever on this year’s open market. Robertson is known to be looking for a contract that tops Jonathan Papelbon‘s record-setting four-year, $50MM contract, and he reportedly already has received a three-year, $39MM offer. By signing Miller, the Yankees could add a premium high-leverage lefty to pair with breakout rookie right-hander Dellin Betances and collect a draft pick when Robertson signs elsewhere.
Max Scherzer tops the list of free agents who could wait until the new year to sign, Jim Duquette writes for MLB.com. Perhaps it’s no surprise that three of the five players on the list, including Scherzer, are represented by Scott Boras, who often prefers to wait for the market to come to him. Duquette suggests that one potential late signee who isn’t a Boras client is Francisco Liriano, who has a qualifying offer attached and who has topped 163 innings in a season only once in his career. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Andrew Miller‘s next deal will almost certainly be for four years and will set a record for a non-closer relief pitcher, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. (Jeremy Affeldt‘s current three-year, $18MM deal holds that record, Heyman notes.) Miller and his agent have pared his list of interested teams down to eight; their identities aren’t known, although Heyman notes that the Red Sox and Orioles have shown interest, while the Tigers are said to lack the necessaryfinancial means. A recent report from Baltimore, however, indicated that the O’s were out on Miller.
- Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon appears to have little trade value and isn’t generating interest from teams like the Blue Jays and Astros, Heyman tweets. Despite being the subject of longstanding worries about his velocity and strikeout rate, Papelbon has gotten good results in each of his three seasons in Philadelphia, so as Heyman suggests, it might seem odd that there isn’t more of a market. His $13MM option for 2016, which will vest if he finishes 48 games next season, might be one source of concern, along with his vanishing peripherals.