Miller, 28, was a non-tender candidate and a trade/release candidate throughout the offseason after struggling through a dismal 2017 campaign, but he agreed to a $4.5MM salary to avoid arbitration and broke camp with the club at the end of Spring Training. To his credit, he’s done a nice job of rebounding from last year’s dreadful .201/.327/.337 slash. Through his first 174 plate appearances in 2018, Miller has hit .256/.322/.429 with five homers, 10 doubles and a triple.
While that slash line is above the league average, it’s also dependent on a .343 BABIP that is way north of Miller’s career mark of .287. That trend is all the more concerning given that Miller is putting fewer balls in play than ever before; he’s striking out at a career-worst 29.3 percent pace in 2018 and carries a fairly characteristic platoon split that has rendered him largely unplayable against left-handed pitching (.639 OPS against lefties in 35 PAs).
The hope for the Rays, clearly, is that Bauers can provide an offensive spark. He’ll give the Rays a left-handed bat to replace the lefty-swinging Miller and a considerably better glove to play at first base. He also comes to the big leagues with more outfield experience than Miller has, so he’ll give manager Kevin Cash an option in that regard as well. Bauers has crushed left-handed pitching in a small sample so far in 2018 and posted a .396 OBP against lefties last year as well, so he also represents a more well-rounded offensive player, in theory.
Tampa Bay will now have a week to either trade, outright or release Miller, who is owed about $2.79MM through season’s end. That salary makes it tough to envision a straight waiver claim taking place, but Miller has a bit of defensive versatility (even if he’s not a plus defender at any position) and has a track record of hitting right-handed pitching well. It’s possible, then, that the Rays could find a taker on the trade market if they agree to pay down a portion of that remaining sum.