Analysis

Could the Phillies bring back Brad Miller?


Brad Miller is a free agent after 66 games for the Phillies. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Phillies got themselves a valuable piece when they made the decision to trade for Brad Miller in exchange for cash considerations in mid-June. But now the club has another decision to make regarding the 30-year-old utility-man.

Miller is now a free agent following an interesting 2019 campaign. He started the season in Spring Training with the Los Angeles Dodgers but left the team to take an opportunity as a role player for the Indians. Cleveland designated Miller for assignment after 13 games and he then signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees. The Phillies traded for him after he played 41 games for New York’s Triple-A affiliate.

When Miller came to Philadelphia, he became a contributor off the bench and also somewhat of a cult hero in the process. It is impossible to fully describe his season for the Phillies without mentioning how he became “Bamboo Brad,” bringing in a bamboo plant for luck to try to help his struggling team at the end of June.

The bamboo seemed to fix all as the Phillies immediately swept a four-game series against the New York Mets. Miller himself got in on the action in the second game of the series with a pinch-hit home run to right-center field, his first home run in a Phillies uniform:

Although the bamboo magic eventually wore off, Miller’s effectiveness did not. He became the best power option off the bench and a key fill-in at both third base and left field as Maikel Franco struggled and Jay Bruce battled injuries down the stretch.

Perhaps Miller’s best stretch as a Phillie came right at the end of the season.

The team clung to playoff hopes with 10 games remaining. Half of those games were against the Wild Card leader and eventual World Series Champion Washington Nationals. The Phillies were five games behind the Nationals in the standings entering this final stretch, meaning that they had a decent shot of making the postseason if they could pull off a five-game sweep in Washington.

The Phillies lost all but three of their last 10, including all five against the Nationals. But this was not due to the efforts of Miller. He played in nine of these games, going 12 for 29 with seven home runs and a walk. Miller posted three games with two home runs in those last nine games he played. The team did miss the playoffs but could have realistically gone 1-9 in its last 10 games without Miller’s efforts.

In 66 games as a Phillie, Miller posted an OPS of .941 with 12 home runs. He had a hard-hit percentage of 46.8 and an average exit velocity of 91.6 mph throughout the entire season, which were both the highest of any player to make an appearance for the Phillies in 2019. His .368 wOBA was just behind Corey Dickerson’s for the highest of all hitters to play for the Phillies this past season.

There is no question that Miller was a very good buy-low pickup for the Phillies. However, it is still unknown whether or not the team will bring him back as an important depth piece for an improved infield next season.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak mentioned that bringing Miller back could be possible when speaking to reporters at the Winter Meetings.

“Someone like Miller, he was so good down the stretch, it makes sense for him, I think, to take a crack at free agency and see what he can do. He earned that,” he said to the collective media, including Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “But by no means have we closed the door on him or anyone.”

If he is unable to secure a starting job, a return to Philadelphia could make sense for both sides. The Phillies gave Miller some stability and a good amount of playing time as a backup in 2019. Miller provided the depth that the top-heavy club was in dire need of.

The Phillies have already added the bigger pieces in Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius. But what they do from this point forward could be just as important. As the team looks to add major league depth and make the moves at the margins that could make or break its season, the front office needs to keep something in mind: the best option may be right in front of them.

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