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Brandon McCarthy Rumors
The action today was in the AL East, with the Red Sox reportedly reaching terms with both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. The day’s moves could well set up a series of others in a division that is setting the early pace in spending. Here’s the latest:
- With the Red Sox taking on gobs of new salary obligations and seemingly prepared to add more, attention has naturally turned to the question of how much the team could be willing to spend. Owner John Henry mentioned last year that going over the luxury tax line is not necessarily a devastating event, notes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Boston has relatively little committed in the future, but is already well north of $100MM in obligations for 2015 even before accounting for Sandoval and Ramirez.
- WEEI.com’s Alex Speier takes a closer look at the team’s possible methods for freeing salary to devote to pitching. He notes that the cap may not be a hard ceiling for the Sox, though the roster will need to be trimmed regardless of financial considerations. Speier’s colleague, Rob Bradford, evaluates the expected addition of Ramirez in terms of the many moving parts that the organization must account for.
- Boston’s moves will test the Yankees‘ restraint, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. New York is still putting out the vibe that it will not play in the top of the free agent market, but the temptation is obvious. As Sherman rightly notes, also, the bidding for return targets like Chase Headley, Brandon McCarthy, and David Robertson could well shoot up rather quickly.
- Sources also tell Sherman that the Bombers are pushing harder to acquire a shortstop than a third baseman. The club has made “a series of trade offers” to land one, per Sherman.
- The Blue Jays are “talking about” Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, according to a tweet from Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. While the report is not entirely clear, it seems to refer to internal discussion among the Toronto brass, rather than trade chatter between the clubs. While a recent report indicated that Cincinnati would listen on Bruce, it is difficult to imagine a trade scenario that would entice the Reds and a team looking to add the talented 27-year-old at a discount.
The Royals have now officially waved goodbye to long-time DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year pact with the A’s that was announced this morning. Kansas City had its chance to keep him, of course, but declined a $12.5MM club option on the right-handed hitter, preferring instead to pay him a $1MM buyout.
Here’s the latest out of Kansas City:
- In a piece discussing the anticipated loss of Butler, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star indicates that the team remains intent on making impact additions to its roster, particularly to the rotation. The club has had at least opening discussions with agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester, writes McCullough.
- Francisco Liriano is also a consideration for the Royals, as are many other arms in the mid-tier of free agents, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. And trade possibilities are also being explored. The team is still dabbling in the markets for Lester and Shields, Heyman notes, but seemingly has eyes for Liriano and Santana
- Torii Hunter is a definite target, says Heyman. The team believes that he is still a reliable bat and sees him as a quality fit.
- Kansas City is considering utilizing Carlos Peguero in a time-share in right field and at DH, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City. That plan would be particularly interesting if the team could pair the left-handed-hitting Peguero with a veteran right-handed bat of Hunter’s ilk.
The Orioles‘ payroll will likely increase next season, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski writes, adding up likely expenditures to reach a projected Opening Day payroll of about $121MM. That’s up from $107.5MM in 2014. Melewski includes free agent outfielder Nick Markakis for $12MM in his projections, in line with the four-year, $48MM contract MLBTR’s Steve Adams projected Markakis would get. (It’s since been reported that the Orioles were discussing a four-year deal with Markakis.) The Orioles could non-tender a player or two to drop their total, but one problem is that they’ve got 11 arbitration-eligible players, including many who were very good last season and two others (Chris Davis and Matt Wieters) whose salary baselines are already very high thanks to their performance in previous years. They also have Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Ubaldo Jimenez locked up to relatively expensive long-term deals. Here are more notes on the East divisions.
- The Yankees have tried to re-sign Brandon McCarthy, but McCarthy is waiting to see what the market has in store for pitchers like Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. After an outstanding stretch run in New York, McCarthy is attracting interest as a potential alternative to the top tier of free agent starting pitching.
- Emerging executive John Coppolella is now John Hart’s “right-hand man” with the Braves, but he got his start in the Yankees organization, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. After turning down a lucrative job at Intel, Coppolella became a baseball operations intern in New York right after graduating college, also working part-time at Chili’s to make ends meet. That led to an opportunity in Atlanta, where he’s worked his way up to assistant general manager. He’s widely seen as a top GM candidate.
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston appears set to continue on in that capacity, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Of course, as Davidi notes, both Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos could face questions if a postseason berth is not in the offing in 2015. The front office will have at least $20MM to $30MM in free salary, Davidi reasons, which could be bolstered with a spending increase and/or move to shed some payroll obligations. As Davidi rightly notes, Toronto has a very clean balance sheet after this year, which could potentially leave the team with a big hammer to wield in free agency.
Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:
- The Blue Jays have a number of possible offseason targets on both the trade and free agent front, writes Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Among them is Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who Toronto has “placed multiple calls on,” according to Nicholson-Smith — who, it should be noted, also recently reported that the Jays are on Kendrick’s no-trade list.
- Whether or not the Yankees are big free agent spenders this year remains to be seen, but the club’s financial muscle is flexed in many and disparate ways, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs writes. Over recent years, New York has consistently controlled the market for minor league free agents, bringing bigger and better offers to the table for players like Yangervis Solarte. (In an interesting note to give context to this relatively minimal spending, McDaniel says a team source told him the team could break even financially even if it carried $500MM in total payroll obligations, including luxury tax costs.)
- The early set of rotation targets for the Yankees features names like Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel, and Chris Capuano, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That jibes with another recent report suggesting that New York has no current plans to attack the arms at the top of the market.
- Free agent closer David Robertson, who is currently weighing a qualifying offer from the Yankees, is one of the most fascinating free agents to watch. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that his sense is the club will be interested in exploring a multi-year deal with Robertson, but may not chase him at the top of the market and would be comfortable allowing him to walk.
- Another QO recipient, Nelson Cruz, told MLB Network Radio (via Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun) that a return to the Orioles is his preferred outcome. “No doubt it’s my first choice,” said Cruz. “I’d love to be back. I understand the business. I know they’re interested in bringing me back. Hopefully we can work something out.” Cruz was not willing to say he would take a lesser deal to stay in Baltimore, though it is obviously hard to fault him for not copping to that publicly — or, for that matter, for choosing the best contract offer he receives, if that ultimately proves to be the case.
- The Red Sox catcher of the future is Blake Swihart, not Christian Vazquez, opines J.J. Cooper of Baseball America. But the team need not decide now how it will sort out the presence of two highly-regarded young backstops. Instead, the team has the option of adding a veteran presence alongside Vazquez for the coming year while Swihart continues to develop in the minors. Assuming Swihart establishes himself as a big league regular, Boston will have plenty of time to assess whether it makes more sense to keep both players or deal one away.
While many have been quick to connect the Yankees to the top names on the market, as is the case in most offseasons, Mark Feinsand and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News hear that the team has no intention to pursue any of the “Big Three” starting pitchers — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — or top third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Instead, the Daily News duo continues, the Yankees are more focused on bringing back a pair of their own free agents: Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy. The team loves Headley’s glove at third base and views the returning Alex Rodriguez as more of a DH candidate at his age, per Feinsand and Madden. The team could act quickly and aggressively to retain the two. (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes pegged Headley for a four-year, $48MM contract while I predicted a three-year, $36MM deal for McCarthy.) The Yankees, per the report, don’t want to add any more $100MM+ contracts to their books, although the name of Hanley Ramirez, who figures to top the century mark, is curiously absent from the list of players they won’t be pursuing.
Also of note for Yankees fans is the update within this piece on David Robertson, whom Feinsand and Madden hear is already receiving interest from at least six clubs. Robertson is expected to turn down the Yankees’ qualifying offer and could land a three- or four-year deal on the open market.
Of course, it’s worth looking back to last season when multiple reports indicated that the Yankees would spend judiciously in an attempt to eventually get the team’s payroll below the $189MM luxury tax threshold. That clearly didn’t happen, as the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to huge multi-year deals while also adding veterans Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Brendan Ryan on smaller deals. All told, they spent roughly half a billion dollars last winter.
None of that is meant to discredit the information provided by Feinsand and Madden, but rather to serve as a reminder that priorities can change. Still, for the time being, the Yankees’ early modus operandi appears to be pursuing mid-level free agents in an attempt to return the team to the playoffs after a two-year absence while also maintaining some long-term flexibility.
MLB Trade Rumors is firing up this year’s version of the Free Agent Faceoff series, in which comparable free agents are analyzed side by side. Each post will conclude with a reader vote on the value of the players involved. The first faceoff featured three shortstops. In the second, we’ll look at a pair of starters:
It’s a common consensus this year that the free agent class for starting pitchers has a great deal of separation between the top three starters — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — and the rest of the class. While opinions on the ranking of those three vary (perhaps a topic for another installment in this series!), there’s a cloudier picture when it comes to the second tier of free agents. Most of the pitchers in the second tier come with some form of blemish on their record, be it a checkered injury history, the possibility of a qualifying offer, inconsistent year-to-year results or some combination of the above. Today we’ll take a look at a pair of 31-year-old starters who can each try to make a case that he’s the best among the second tier: Ervin Santana and Brandon McCarthy. (This is, of course, not to say that the “best among the second tier” is specifically limited to these two.)
McCarthy vs. Santana is somewhat of a case of tantalizing upside versus steady and reliable. McCarthy totaled an even 200 innings in 2014 — the first time in his career he’s reached that mark and just the second time in which he’s topped 180 frames. Santana, on the other hand, threw 196 innings and has topped the 200 mark on five occasions in his career. He’s averaged 207 innings per season over the past five years — durability to which McCarthy cannot lay claim.
In four of the aforementioned seasons, Santana has posted an ERA south of 4.00 — bottoming out at 3.24 last season in Kansas City. McCarthy’s best seasons came in 2011-12 with Oakland when he posted a combined 3.29 ERA in 281 1/3 innings. However, those two seasons are the only in which he’s successfully kept his ERA under 4.00.
To this point, the argument seems skewed heavily in Santana’s favor, but McCarthy’s case is certainly not without merit. When looking at the two through a sabermetric lens, McCarthy can be seen as not only the better pitcher, but arguably one of the better pitchers in the league. McCarthy’s 2.86 FIP in 2011 led the league, and a comparison of their marks in ERA (3.81 vs. 3.87), FIP (3.44 vs. 4.19), xFIP (3.43 vs. 3.88) and SIERA (3.60 vs. 3.93) all favor McCarthy. The Yankees were likely drawn to McCarthy’s sabermetric profile this July when trading for him, and that investment paid off handsomely, as McCarthy pitched to a stellar 2.89 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 90 1/3 innings down the stretch.
McCarthy has generated more ground-balls than Santana since buying into sabermetric principles back in 2009, but he took his ground-ball rate to a new level in 2014 (52.6 percent) while Santana regressed in the same area (42.7 percent). Both pitchers possess strong command and can miss bats, but McCarthy has shown better control over the past four seasons while Santana has bested McCarthy in strikeout rate each year. McCarthy’s strikeout rate did jump in 2014, along with his velocity (career-best 92.9 mph average fastball), but Santana’s strikeout rate rose as well (even against non-pitchers in the NL).
Other factors to consider: Santana will pitch all of next season at age 32, while McCarthy won’t be 32 until July. Additionally, Santana is eligible to receive a qualifying offer, meaning he could again come with draft pick compensation attached to his name; McCarthy is ineligible to receive a QO after being traded midseason.
Each player has been on the receiving end of a Free Agent Profile at MLBTR (McCarthy’s penned by me, Santana’s by Tim Dierkes), which provide even more in-depth looks at the pros and cons of each. Use those as you wish to help formulate an opinion before voting…
On the first episode of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast, Jeff Todd runs down the week’s transactional news (1:24) before bringing on MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes and Steve Adams to talk Chase Headley (2:45), Brandon McCarthy (11:58), and David Robertson (20:07). Jeff then provides his thoughts on a pair of corner outfielder contracts that have widely different public perceptions (39:34).
Going forward, the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will run weekly on Thursday evenings.
After signing a two-year, $15.5MM contract prior to the 2013 season, Brandon McCarthy struggled with the Diamondbacks before experiencing a tremendous turnaround following a trade to the Yankees. He’ll hit the open market this season in a strong crop of free agent pitchers as he looks to cash in on his big second half.
McCarthy’s past two seasons don’t look great on the whole, but there were plenty of indicators that his ERA with the D’Backs, particularly this year, was in part due to poor luck. He was racking up strikeouts at the highest rate of his career with an elite ground-ball rate and a 1.6 BB/9 mark prior to his trade — all signs that led the Yankees to acquire him in exchange for Vidal Nuno. The rest of the season was a 180-degree turn for McCarthy, whose 5.01 ERA with Arizona feels like a distant memory after he posted a 2.89 mark with the Yankees.
McCarthy finished this season with a 5.3 K/BB ratio — tops among free agent starters — and a 52.6 percent ground-ball rate, both indicators that future success could be on the horizon. This season also marked the healthiest year of his career, as he made a career-high 32 starts and totaled a career-high 200 innings. His diminished performance in Arizona takes some shine off his recent numbers, but over the past four years McCarthy has a cumulative 3.81 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 47.8 percent ground-ball rate. FIP (3.44), xFIP (3.43) and SIERA (3.60) all feel he’s been better than that ERA would indicate.
McCarthy posted the best peripherals of his career this season in part because his fastball averaged a career-high 92.9 mph. That led to the best swinging-strike rate he’s posted (8.8 percent on the season; 9.4 percent with the Yankees) since working as a reliever for the White Sox in 2006. Hitters have never chased out-of-zone pitches from McCarthy as often as they did in 2014, and they made less contact (82.3%) against him this season than they have since that 2006 campaign. That his greatest success came in on a contending team in a large market in the AL East will carry some weight with interested teams.
At 31 years of age, McCarthy isn’t necessarily a young free agent, but he’s younger than many of the pitchers in the second tier of this year’s market, including Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana and Jason Hammel. He’s also ineligible to receive a qualifying offer after being traded midseason, something that fellow 31-year-old free agent Francisco Liriano cannot say. A combination of relative youth, strong strikeout-to-walk numbers, increased velocity and no qualifying offer are strong points in his favor.
Despite all of the things working in McCarthy’s favor, there’s simply no getting around the fact that he doesn’t have a track record of durability. While one of his most recent injuries — a terrifying head injury suffered in 2012 when struck by a line drive — was clearly a freak accident, McCarthy has had multiple stress fractures in his throwing shoulder in the past. He’s landed on the DL for a shoulder problem five times in his career (including once in 2013), and he also missed nearly the entire 2008 season with a forearm injury. McCarthy has only topped 170 innings twice — in 2011 and in 2014.
McCarthy’s agent, Ryan Ware of LSW Baseball, will also have to explain his client’s sub-par ERA with the D’Backs to interested parties this offseason. For as excellent as he was with the Yankees, McCarthy turned in 224 2/3 innings of 4.75 ERA ball with Arizona prior to his turnaround. Can 90 innings with New York erase concerns over that performance? Ware can point out that there was some poor luck involved, which is true, but McCarthy has a history of posting low strand rates in his career. His overall mark of 71 percent is slightly below average, but he’s turned in four seasons with a strand rate south of 69 percent as a starter — something that does lead to a discrepancy between ERA and FIP. He hasn’t been a strikeout pitcher in previous seasons either, though that may no longer be the case if he can maintain his newfound velocity.
McCarthy is seen as a student of the game and is considered one of the most intelligent minds in baseball. As noted by Eddie Matz of ESPN The Magazine last year, McCarthy home-schooled himself in sabermetric principles and used his findings to reinvent himself as a pitcher in 2009 — adjusting his pitch repertoire and changing his gameplan on the mound.
Matz writes that McCarthy is an avid reader and has an extensive vocabulary that he regularly drops into everyday conversation. He’s very active on Twitter — a trait that has endeared him to many fans — and is said to be known for a dry sense of humor.
It’s not hard to envision half the teams in the league (or more) showing interest in McCarthy. The lack of draft pick forfeiture attached to his name and the fact that he will command lesser money than top arms Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester is undoubtedly attractive.
Contending teams in need of immediate rotation help and non-contending clubs alike will show interest. The Yankees could certainly use McCarthy back, and I wonder if his turnaround in the Bronx gives them a bit of an inside track in landing him this offseason. Other teams that could be in need of arms will include (but certainly aren’t limited to) the Red Sox, Cubs, Twins, Rockies, Giants, Marlins, Phillies, Pirates, Braves and Astros.
McCarthy has said he’d be open to returning to the Yankees, and he also noted that he’d be willing to sign early in the offseason if an offer to his liking came along. Oftentimes, signing early is a good move for free agents — particularly those that are below the top tier of the free agent class.
Though his two-year platform heading into free agency is weaker than his previous two-year platform from an ERA standpoint, McCarthy’s entering free agency without the specter of a career-threatening head injury hanging over him as he did in the 2012-13 offseason. The market for pitching has only grown since that time, and as such, McCarthy should exceed his previous contract with ease.
Given his turnaround, strong peripherals and lack of a qualifying offer, I think a three-year deal is attainable for McCarthy. I’d expect that many teams will be comfortable pushing to three years in order to land him, and it’s possible that the first team that blinks and gives him a fourth year, even if it lowers the average annual value of the deal, will end up signing him. While I’m not ruling out the fourth-year scenario, I’m going to predict that McCarthy ends up on a three-year, $36MM contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
If he hangs up his spikes, as he is said to be weighing, Red Sox catcher David Ross should have plenty of avenues for non-playing jobs in the game, tweets Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. A former GM tells Mastrodonato that he considers Ross a close friend and would be more than happy to find a position for him.
Here’s more from Boston and the rest of the AL East:
- As the offseason begins for the Red Sox, GM Ben Cherington reiterated that the team needs to add depth in the rotation and in the lineup, as MLB.com’s Ian Browne reports. In particular, the club will emphasize left-handed-hitting options around the diamond.
- Apart from Brett Gardner, the Yankees generally lack attractive veteran contracts that could be dealt in a rebuilding scenario, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. But while that makes little sense, neither would it be beneficial to spend top dollar on the high-end free agent market, argues Sherman. Instead, New York should continue to wield its financial muscle to make more incremental gains that maintain financial and roster flexibility — much as the team did on the trade deadline this year.
- One player who could meet that description is starter Brandon McCarthy. As Roger Rubin of the New York Daily news reports, the big righty is very open to a return to New York but is not exactly waiting with bated breath. “When the phone rings we’ll find out for sure,” said McCarthy, who added that he is willing to be aggressive in selling his services. “You don’t have to be the biggest name to be the first domino to fall,” he said. “You could be at the beginning or the end and at some slot in the middle. I’ve been focused on what I am doing, but soon it could be time to weigh what’s going on. I feel if I got the right offer, I’d be willing to sign early in the process.”
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi says that he needs to see how Alex Rodriguez looks on the field before determining his role next year, as George A. King III of the New York Post reports. But Girardi says that his expectation is that Rodriguez will take a regular role at third: “Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes. In fairness you have to see where he is at. I can’t tell you what will happen, but we expect him to be our third baseman.”
- For the Rays, manager Joe Maddon hopes to stay on past 2015 but is in no rush to add onto his contract, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reports. Meanwhile, both utilityman Ben Zobrist and reliever Joel Peralta hope the team will exercise its options over them for the coming year, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. That is a foregone conclusion for Zobrist, of course, but Peralta ($2.5MM option with no buyout) is a more difficult call as he enters his age-39 season. His 4.41 ERA over 63 1/3 frames does not look very appealing, but Peralta did post a 3.40 FIP, 3.11 xFIP, and 2.54 SIERA on the back of 10.5 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9.
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.