Andrew Miller Rumors

AL Notes: Ryan, Hunter, Miller, Bonifacio, Front Office

Twins GM Terry Ryan is “doing well” after his bout with throat cancer, writes MLB.com’s Barry Bloom. The 61-year-old still is experiencing various forms of discomfort, but has completed radiation and is back at full force in the Minnesota front office.

Here’s more out of the American League:

  • The Tigers will not pursue Torii Hunter after inking Victor Martinez and trading for Anthony Gose, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters today, including George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “I called and said it just didn’t look like it was going to fit the way the club was getting put together,” Dombrowski said. “Thanked him for everything. Absolutely love him. If something changes where we make some changes for one reason or another, that we’re not anticipating, we would still be open. It’s just probably not much of a fit right now.” Hunter indicated in an Instagram post that he still intends to play in 2015.
  • The Blue Jays recently met with free agent lefty Andrew Miller, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. Miller figures to be a highly sought-after relief weapon. Toronto has definite pen needs, as Nicholson-Smith’s colleague, Shi Davidi, told me on this week’s podcast, and as MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote in previewing the club’s offseason.
  • Free agent utility man Emilio Bonifacio is receiving interest from his former teams, including the Blue Jays and Royals, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets. (Cotillo also lists the Cubs as a team with possible interest.) Bonifacio should have his pick of situations given his versatility and place on the market.
  • The Red Sox have promoted Mike Rikard to become the team’s scouting director, according to a tweet from Clint Longenecker, formerly of Baseball America. He replaces Amiel Sawdaye, who will be promoted to a vice president role, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter). Longenecker himself is moving on to join the Indians, Baseball America’s John Manuel tweets.

Free Agent Notes: Sandoval, Miller, Martin, Gomes, Carter

The Red Sox are trying to set up a visit to Boston for Pablo Sandoval, perhaps as early as next week, reports the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Sandoval has drawn interest from four clubs, per Cafardo, but the Red Sox and Giants are the two most serious suitors. David Ortiz has been pitching Boston to Sandoval and trying to persuade him away from San Francisco, Cafardo hears.

Some more free agent notes as baseball news slows down following the conclusion of the GM Meetings…

  • A hefty 22 teams have reached out to agent Mark Rodgers regarding Andrew Miller, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Heyman adds that one team that’s unlikely to make a play for Miller is the Cubs, who are more focused on lengthening their ‘pen with lower-profile acquisitions. Reports yesterday indicated that the Cubs were out on David Robertson as well.A
  • Heyman also writes that the Dodgers are serious about making a run at Russell Martin but still facing competition from the Cubs, Pirates and Blue Jays. The Pirates, Heyman hears, are said to have already made a strong bid to retain Martin. Despite their acquisition of Francisco Cervelli, he notes, the Pirates are not out on Martin.
  • Six clubs have shown interest in Jonny Gomes to this point, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish. The Cubs are believed to be one of those clubs, though Gomes isn’t close to any kind of decision and is still “early in the process.”
  • Right-hander Anthony Carter, who spent this past season in Japan, will not have his mutual option with the Nippon-Ham Fighters exercised, MLBTR has learned. Carter technically has to clear waivers in Japan before he can become a free agent and become eligible to sign with a Major League organization or a different club in NPB. The 28-year-old posted a 3.97 ERA in 45 1/3 innings of relief in Japan this season and has a lifetime 4.93 ERA at Triple-A. His best season came in 2013 with the Red Sox when he posted a 3.47 ERA with 11.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 at Triple-A.

Andrew Miller Seeking Four-Year Deal

Earlier today, reports indicated that David Robertson is seeking a four-year deal in the mold of Jonathan Papelbon‘s $50MM contract, and the asking price on top lefty reliever Andrew Miller might not be much lower. Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com hears from a source that Miller is seeking “at least” a four-year deal and isn’t listening to any offers that have anything less than an “astounding” average annual value.

The Red Sox met with Miller’s camp this afternoon, Mastrodonato hears. Miller’s agent, Mark Rodgers of Frontline Athlete Management, told the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo that he saved his meeting with the Red Sox for last at this year’s GM Meetings (Twitter link).

Miller is coming off an elite season in which he posted a combined 2.02 with an incredible 103 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings (14.9 K/9) between the Red Sox and Orioles. He dominated right- and left-handed hitters alike, averaging just 2.5 walks per nine innings with a ground-ball rate of 46.9 percent. That 14.9 K/9 mark is the highest in AL history for a reliever with more than 50 innings, as pointed out yesterday by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, who also reported that Miller is drawing interest as a potential closer.

Of course, Miller doesn’t come with a lengthy track record of this type of dominance. He posted excellent ERAs in 2012-13, but in shorter samples (a total of 70 1/3 innings in that time) and while being shielded from facing many right-handed hitters. Miller also battled his command until this season, as he entered the year with a career BB/9 rate of 5.3.

All of this as covered in greater detail in Tim Dierkes’ Free Agent Profile of Miller. Though his track record is a bit spotty, Tim projected that Miller’s historic season would be parlayed into a four-year, $32MM pact.



NL Central Notes: Zimmermann, Cards, Miller

A rumored deal of Jordan Zimmermann to the Cubs is reportedly not happening, which makes sense to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal since such a trade wouldn’t really be a fit for either the Cubs or the Nationals.  The Cubs are likely to address their pitching need by either signing a top free agent arm or trading one of their infield prospects for a controllable younger arm.  Dealing for Zimmermann would the Cubs to both give up prospects and spend big, Rosenthal notes, since Chicago would obviously want to sign the righty to a long-term extension.

Here’s some more from around the NL Central…

  • The Cardinals are wary of making commitments that will result in future roadblocks to upcoming younger players, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  GM John Mozeliak notes that the team feels it could be “exposed” at first base or the corner outfield if it does not get the performances it hopes for, and is interested in left-handed relief help and a utility infielder.
  • In fact, the Cardinals met with representatives for Andrew Miller on Tuesday, Goold tweets. The meeting was characterized as exploratory in nature, though the fit is obvious.
  • Both the Cardinals and Reds had interest in Michael Cuddyer before he signed with the Mets, Goold reports in a separate piece.
  • Though the Reds are interested in Nori Aoki and Michael Morse, that is not an exclusive list, GM Walt Jocketty tells C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). The club’s top priority is adding offense, and it is considering trade scenarios in addition to looking at the free agent market.

Free Agent Notes: Scherzer, Lester, Miller, Rios

Talk about the market’s top free agent, Max Scherzer, has been scarce to this point, but agent Scott Boras tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he’s not worried about the quiet air surrounding his client. “Premium free agents are rarely talked about at the GM meetings,” Boras said. “This is an owners’ decision. Every GM wants him. There’s always a place for him on every team. The issue is not whether the player is wanted. The issue is whether the owner will make the commitment to try to win the World Series.” Heyman’s piece contains many examples of the litany of stats Boras will use when pitching Scherzer to owners around the league. The Tigers are said to love Scherzer, but indications at this time are that they’re out on Scherzer. That, of course, could change as the offseason progresses, though one Tigers source told Heyman that Boras’ counteroffer to the team’s six-year, $144MM extension offer was “way, way” north of that sizable $144MM sum.

A few more notes on some free agents…

  • While many top free agents take their time to see how the market plays out, a source tells MassLive.com’s Jason Mastrodonato that Jon Lester is willing to sign as soon as the right offer presents itself, “whether it is tomorrow or April 1.” While the Red Sox are known to have a preference to shy away from commitments of four-plus years to pitchers in their 30s (following their five-year deal for John Lackey), GM Ben Cherington implied that the team might be willing to make an exception for Lester, noting that it’s never been a hard policy.
  • Andrew Miller‘s agent, Mark Rodgers, tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that he plans to be “methodical” in discussions with teams and doesn’t envision signing a contract in the near future. Miller is open to pitching in a setup capacity for a contending team with an entrenched closer, but he’s also generating interest from teams in need of a closer.
  • The Twins prefer to add a right-handed bat to their outfield this offseason, and while Torii Hunter has been listed in connection to Minnesota, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that Alex Rios is another name to watch.

Free Agent Notes: Bargains, Hot Commodities, Minors

One of the questions facing all teams in free agency is whether to pay for top talent or delve into the second tier for a bargain.  Ben Lindbergh of Grantland lists five instances where the generic option could provide more financial value than the name brand asset. In the case of players like Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, and David Robertson, cheaper options probably won’t outperform them, but they could come close at less than half the guaranteed cost. Here’s more from the realm of free agency.

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post picked destinations for 10 “hot MLB free agents.” Sherman thinks the Mets could be the surprise winners of the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, since the move would energize a depressed fan base. In my opinion, his oddest pick is Max Scherzer to the Brewers. Sherman reasons that Milwaukee has been aggressive under owner Mark Attanasio, but I’m not sure they can support a massive investment in a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, the Tigers could grab two trendy free agents with Sandoval to man third base and Andrew Miller to play the role of relief ace.
  • For those who aren’t satisfied with MLBTR’s list of MLB free agents, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has all the minor league free agents for your perusal. As we learned earlier this week via FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, MiLB free agents represent a potentially under-exploited opportunity to buy value. To a stats analyst, not many names jump of the page. One I’ll be tracking, if only because he’s an interesting story, is Jason Lane.

 


AL East Notes: Robertson, Headley, Happ, Tomas

In a text message to George A. King III of the New York Post, David Robertson says things are “quiet on the front” in terms of a multiyear contract with the Yankees or receiving a qualifying offer from the team.  The Yankees are expected to extend the QO to Robertson and the closer is very likely to reject it given the interest in his services.  At least six clubs are interested in Robertson this winter, a league source tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.

Here’s more from around the AL East…

  • The Yankees have begun talks with Chase Headley, CBSSports.com’ Jon Heyman reports.  New York has exclusive negotiating rights with Headley until 11pm CT tonight, though it would be quite surprising to see a deal reached before Headley has had a chance to test the thin free agent market.
  • Blue Jays southpaw J.A. Happ is “generating lots of interest” in trades, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports.  Happ enjoyed a solid 2014 season and had his $6.7MM option for 2015 exercised by the Jays on Friday.  With the newly-acquired Marco Estrada now in the rotation mix, Happ could be expendable.
  • Earlier today, Sportsnet.ca’s Jeff Blair reported that the Blue Jays have had internal discussions about Russell Martin.  In that same item, Blair notes that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos might look to act quickly this offseason rather than wait for deals to develop.  The latter strategy left the Jays largely empty-handed last winter.  Toronto has already dealt Adam Lind to Milwaukee, a trade that Blair feels doesn’t make much sense for the Jays unless a follow-up move is forthcoming.
  • The Orioles don’t seem to have interest in trading or non-tendering Chris Davis, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski reports, though the first baseman will have much to atone for in Baltimore following his disappointing 2014 season.
  • Though the Orioles currently have six legitimate rotation candidates on the roster, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko expects the club to add pitching depth by signing at least one veteran to a minor league deal.
  • Jay Alou, Yasmany Tomas‘ agent, tweeted that his client worked out at the Red Sox academy in the Dominican Republic over the weekend.  While the Sox have had some interest in Tomas in the past, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford hears that the workout was arranged “partly out of convenience, with Tomas needing a place in the area to continue his preparation.”  It would be a surprise to see Boston sign Tomas given that the Sox already have an outfield surplus.
  • The Red Sox are in need of a top left-hander for the bullpen, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes.  Bringing back Andrew Miller would be the best option, though he’ll be heavily courted by several teams and the Sox may not be able to win a bidding war.
  • Silverman thinks the Red Sox and Burke Badenhop could quickly come to terms on a new contract.  The righty reliever posted a 2.29 ERA in 70 2/3 IP with Boston in 2014.

Free Agent Profile: Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller was drafted sixth overall in 2006, one spot ahead of Clayton Kershaw.  He didn’t find success as a starting pitcher, but developed into a shutdown reliever in recent years.  Miller’s stock rose dramatically in 2014, to the point where he’s the second-best free agent reliever this winter.  The 29-year-old 6’7″ lefty could score a surprisingly large multiyear deal.

Strengths/Pros

Armed with a 94-97 mile per hour four-seam fastball and one of the game’s nastiest sliders, Miller strikes out batters in droves.  Among relievers with at least 50 innings pitched, Miller’s 14.87 K/9 ranked second in baseball, behind only Aroldis ChapmanUsing linear weights, Miller had the most valuable slider in baseball in 2014.  And he’s no lefty specialist, either, with righties also unable to touch him.

Andrew Miller

Miller posted a sparkling 2.02 ERA this year, which ranked 22nd among MLB relievers and second among free agent relievers.  Miller ranked sixth among MLB relievers with 2.3 wins above replacement, and second with a 1.21 SIERA.  In short, Miller’s skills more than back up his performance.

Miller showed the best control of his career this year, walking only 2.5 batters per nine innings.  He was traded to the Orioles at the July deadline and was especially stingy with the free pass in the ensuing 20 innings, walking only 1.8 per nine.

Miller allowed less than one baserunner per inning this year, in part because he was extremely difficult to hit.  Only six MLB relievers allowed fewer than Miller’s 4.76 hits per nine innings.  Since 2012, Miller has allowed 5.8 hits per nine.  We’re building a near-perfect reliever at this point, but Miller also allowed only three home runs in his 62 1/3 innings this year.

Miller didn’t have an ERA above 2.70 in any month, but he was particularly good in the season’s final three months with a 1.48 mark.  For good measure, he tacked on another 7 1/3 scoreless frames in five postseason appearances, serving as a major weapon for Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

Not that a qualifying offer would have been likely, but Miller became ineligible for one upon his midseason trade.  That’s an advantage Miller has over the top available free agent reliever, David Robertson.  He’s also younger than most of his peers in the marketplace, as Miller does not turn 30 until May.

Weaknesses/Cons

Control was a weakness for Miller prior to 2014, as he walked 5.2 batters per nine innings in 136 innings from 2011-13.  70 innings of limiting free passes isn’t enough of a sample to say he has completely eliminated the problem.  Miller posted a 5.0 BB/9 as recently as last year.

2013 was an odd year for Miller in general.  He posted a 2.64 ERA in 30 2/3 innings, but lefties hit .281 off him and he walked 16% of the right-handed batters he faced.  That season ended for Miller on July 6th, when he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot.  It was a torn ligament between bones in the middle of the foot, according to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.

Miller previously hit the 15-day DL in 2007 (hamstring strain), ’08 (knee inflammation), ’09 (oblique strain), and ’12 (hamstring strain).  One point in his favor is that none of these injuries involved his left arm.  Miller fell an out shy of 70 innings this year including the playoffs, but only tallied 53 1/3 frames in 2012 and 30 2/3 last year.  It may not be predictive, but in Miller’s three full seasons as a reliever, this is the only year in which he didn’t miss 26 games or more.

Personal

Miller was born in Gainesville, Florida and attended high school there.  He attended UNC for college and was drafted sixth overall in ’06.  Miller currently resides in Newberry, Florida with his wife and son.  He’s known as a cerebral person, and is one of the game’s most active players union representatives.

Market

Miller has shown he can retire left and right-handed hitters, and has the skills to handle the ninth inning if his team prefers.  Any team would love to have him, and he could anchor a bullpen for the White Sox, Astros, Blue Jays, Mets, Rangers, and Cubs, to name a few.  The Tigers drafted Miller in ’06 and traded him to the Marlins the following year as a major component of the Miguel Cabrera deal.  The Tigers almost brought him back via trade this July, so they should have interest in free agency.  The Brewers, Braves, Pirates, Nationals, and Dodgers were also among those in on him at the trade deadline.  A reunion with Boston also can’t be ruled out, and the Yankees figure to check in.  And certainly the Orioles would like to have Miller back, if they can fit him into their budget while also trying to re-sign Nelson Cruz and others.

Expected Contract

The Red Sox acquired Miller from the Marlins in November 2010, but non-tendered him a few weeks later.  He received strong interest on the free agent market for a few weeks and ultimately turned down three different big league offers to sign a minor league deal to remain with Boston.

Four years later, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says Miller is “a strong union man who believes in the right of a player to seek the best contract for himself when he reaches free agency,” adding that Miller will go to the highest bidder this winter.  Interest in Miller will be widespread, as it was at the trade deadline.  That the Red Sox were able to extract highly-regarded pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez in a trade for several months of Miller’s services speaks to the kind of bidding war that occurred.

Brandon League money would be a solid deal for Miller; League received $22.5MM over three years at the end of the 2012 season.  Given just one save on his resume, Miller would be the first non-closing reliever to reach the $20MM mark (though I’ve predicted just that for Luke Gregerson).  Still, with MLBTR’s Steve Adams projecting $52MM over four years for Robertson with a qualifying offer, the League contract feels inadequate for a reliever as coveted as Miller.

We haven’t seen a four-year deal for a non-closing reliever since Scott Linebrink signed with the White Sox seven years ago.  With Miller, I think it’s time.  I’m predicting a four-year, $32MM deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Maeda, Headley, Miller, Phils

26-year-old Kenta Maeda of Japan’s Hiroshima Carp is expected to become available through the posting system, making him an intriguing potential addition to the upcoming free agent market. Ben Badler of Baseball America has a report on Maeda’s last outing in the Nippon League, writing that he “flash[ed] three average or better pitches with good fastball command.” Though slight in build, Maeda steadily worked in the 90-94 mph range. Ultimately, Badler indicates that, while the righty is not viewed as a top-of-the-rotation arm at the MLB level, he should draw plenty of interest if he is made available.

Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:

  • The Yankees may be interested in re-signing mid-season acquisition Chase Headley, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. A move to bring back the third baseman would appear to be a strong indication that Alex Rodriguez is not expected to be an option there, Heyman explains.
  • The Tigers thought they were going to acquire then-Red Sox lefty Andrew Miller at the trade deadline after meeting Boston’s asking price, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. But the Sox gave the Orioles one last chance, resulting in Eduardo Rodriguez heading north to a division rival. As Sherman notes, the eleven outs that Miller recorded in the ALDS for the O’s, rather than the Tigers, had an undeniable impact on Baltimore’s three-game sweep.
  • Looking ahead to Miller’s free agency, one executive tells Sherman that three years and $21MM is probably just the starting point for the southpaw’s market. The ability to deploy Miller in the way that the Yankees used Dellin Betances in his breakout year — often throwing multiple innings in winnable games — greatly increases his value, says Sherman.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “there’s nothing that’s really off the table” for the team as it enters the offseason, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Though he said he does not believe “this organization needs a philosophical overhaul as far as how we evaluate players,” Amaro said the team needs to get younger and more athletic while “looking for more long-term solutions” in the player market. Ultimately, the organization could put added emphasis on “speed and contact” given the lack of power bats available.

Tigers Notes: Price, Miller, V-Mart, Martin

In the wake of another postseason disappointment for the Tigers, “there’s the underlying question whether this could be the end of an era,” MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes.  Several key members of the roster will hit free agency, including Max Scherzer, though the 2013 Cy Young Award winner said “I do hope I’m back. I love this clubhouse, love everybody in here, been to battle with these guys for five years. It would mean a lot to me.”

Here’s the latest from the Motor City…

  • If Scherzer doesn’t return, the natural next step for the Tigers would be to pursue an extension with David Price, though the southpaw naturally wasn’t concerned with his contract in the wake of the painful ALDS sweep.  “That’s out of my control. That’s the last thing that’s on my mind right now. I’m not worried about that,” Price told reporters, including Mlive.com’s Chris Iott.  Price has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting the free agent market after the 2015 season.
  • The Tigers’ failure to acquire Andrew Miller at the trade deadline may have been the turning point of their season, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes.  Miller could’ve been prevented the bullpen meltdowns that plagued the Tigers in the ALDS, but instead, he ended up stifling Detroit in two late-game appearances for the Orioles.  The Tigers came very close to closing a deal Miller at the deadline but the Red Sox instead sent the lefty to Baltimore in exchange for top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.
  • A rival official recently told ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) that he thinks the Tigers will do whatever it takes to re-sign Victor Martinez, as “considering the Tigers’ win-at-all-costs approach and Martinez’s importance in the Detroit lineup, he cannot see them being outbid.”  Olney lists five other teams as possible fits for Martinez in free agency, and three are from the AL Central.
  • Also from Olney’s piece, he lists the Tigers as a potential suitor for Russell Martin.  The free agent catcher could be “a plan B” if the Tigers are concerned about Alex Avila‘s concussion history and want a change behind the plate.