In baseball, there are a number of components needed for a successful team. One of those is having trustworthy relievers who can deliver shutdown innings.
The Philadelphia Phillies may have someone in mind to help bolster that element of the ball club. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi is now reporting that the Phillies have shown interest in free agent Andrew Miller.
Miller, 33, is coming off a down year with the Cleveland Indians. The left-hander pitched to a 4.24 ERA with a 2-4 record and two saves. He also tossed just 34.0 innings, his lowest output since 2013.
It would be a mistake to judge Miller solely by the past season, however. Over five years from 2013-2017 he posted a combined 1.82 ERA with 469 strikeouts and a 14.5 SO/9. Miller produced a total bWAR of 11.5 during that span.
Named to the AL All-Star team in both 2016 and 2017, Miller finished among the top ten in American League Cy Young Award voting in 2015 and 2016. He was also a Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year recipient.
Another important factor is that Miller carries closer experience. He performed those 9th-inning responsibilities while with the New York Yankees during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, producing 48 total Saves.
While that was Miller’s lone experience as a dedicated closer during his 13-year career spent with six different organizations in Major League Baseball, he has produced in the role when called upon. Miller has 53 career Saves, with seven of those coming out of the bullpen for the Cleveland Indians, to whom he was dealt by the Yanks at the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline.
Miller also brings postseason experience to the table, having appeared in the MLB playoffs in every year dating back to 2014. He has a 1.09 ERA over 33.0 innings pitched and was named the 2016 ALCS Most Valuable Player as the Indians advanced to face the Chicago Cubs in the World Series that year.
The Phillies bullpen situation is somewhat unclear at the moment. Seranthony Dominguez had a solid rookie season, tossing 58 innings over 53 games with 16 Saves and a 2.95 ERA. Another rookie, Victor Arano, was also a bright spot. The 23-year-old tossed 59.1 innings across 60 games and had a 2.73 ERA with three saves.
Veterans Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, last off-season’s big bullpen additions, were unable to produce as hoped. Neshek missed the first three months and made just 30 appearances due to injury. He was mostly solid once he got healthy, tossing 24.1 innings over 30 games with a 2.59 ERA after June.
Hunter was a tail of two seasons. Following a cold first-half in which he produced a 4.80 ERA across his first 30 games, his final 30 outings saw him allow just 27 hits over 34 innings with a 2.91 ERA.
Former closer Hector Neris performed so poorly that he was actually demoted to Triple-A at the end of June. Once he returned in mid-August he was a different pitcher. Over his final 20 games he allowed just 11 hits across 17.2 innings with a 35/5 K:BB ratio and a 2.04 ERA.
While most of his bullpen mates improved their performance over the last couple of months, veteran righty Luis Garcia went in the opposite direction. Over his first 26 games through May 27, Garcia had a 2.91 ERA. From that point on across 33 games he imploded with an 8.88 ERA mark, allowing 37 hits over 24.1 innings.
One of the issues with the current Phillies bullpen is that it is righty-heavy. Adam Morgan made 67 appearances last season as the primary lefty option. 25-year-old rookie Austin Davis came seemingly out of nowhere and made 32 appearances following his June 20 promotion. They combined to allow 84 hits over 84 up-and-down innings.
Miller would give the team a more experienced left-handed option with a successful pedigree. This could prove beneficial should manager Gabe Kapler decide to play match-ups instead of having a single closer.
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury suggested this very possibility in an interview with Sports Radio 94 WIP’s Jon Ritchie and Joe Decamara back in November:
“I’m not sure that they’re a group (the Phillies front office) in having a tried-and-true closer. I think they want to play the match-up game, as they showed a lot last year. I don’t know that they want to sink a big salary number into a closer.“
Miller hasn’t been the only reliever who the Phillies have been connected to recently. The club is rumored to be among those interested in Seattle closer Edwin Diaz. Diaz, 24, is coming off a stellar season in which he saved 57 games and was the top closer in the game. However, the Mariners have let it be known that he would come at a steep price.
For what it’s worth, MLB Trade Rumors predicted Miller to sign a three-year, $27-million deal this off-season. He ranks 24th on their list of the top 50 free agents. That kind of salary figure, $9 million per season, is certainly doable for the Phillies, who owner John Middleton confirmed are ready to spend.
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