The Cubs saw Andrew Miller’s brilliance first hand in the 2016 World Series.
One of the best left-handed relievers available this offseason is Andrew Miller, although looking at his numbers last season, you wouldn’t know just how dominant he is.
In an injury-plagued 2018 season, Miller was not himself. In 34 innings last year, he posted a 4.24 ERA and his worst K-BB% since 2012.
Miller had a track record of limiting hard contact, allowing opposing batters to hit the ball hard under 25 percent of the time in both 2016 and 2017. Last year, his hard contact rate jumped to a career-worst 41.4 percent.
Although the numbers aren’t encouraging, it’s easy to see what caused Miller’s struggles – he was dealing with three separate injuries throughout the course of the season. A hamstring strain, knee inflammation, and a sore shoulder led the two-time All-Star to be placed on the disabled list three different times last year.
Despite the ailments and poor performance in 2018, Miller will still be widely regarded as one of the best available free agent relief pitchers. Why does his bad season get overlooked? Because he was one of the best relievers in baseball the three previous years.
From 2015-2017, Miller had the best strikeout percentage and second-best ERA among all qualified relievers at 41.6 percent and 1.63, respectively. He excelled at getting batters to swing through pitches, finishing top ten in both swinging strike percentage and o-swing percentage (swinging at pitches outside the strike zone).
With such dominant numbers, especially from a left-handed reliever, Miller was in high demand. The Cleveland Indians had to give up a haul of prospects to acquire him from the New York Yankees at the 2016 trade deadline. The Cubs wanted Miller too, but they didn’t want to pay the lofty price, instead settling for the cheaper-to-acquire Aroldis Chapman.
The Cubs current need of southpaw relievers, as well as their previous interest in Miller, makes this move seem like a no-brainer. While the 2018 numbers and injuries might scare some teams away, they will definitely make Miller more affordable.
MLBTradeRumors.com currently has Miller estimated to sign a three-year, $27 million contract. A $9 million per year salary isn’t small, but it’s certainly worth the chance at acquiring one of the best relievers in the game.
Another contract possibility for Miller is that he could sign a higher-value one-year deal. Something in the range of one-year, $13 million could make sense. That could play well for both the Cubs and Miller – the team avoids long-term risk and Miller has a chance to prove that he’s still an elite back-of-the-bullpen option.
Every team needs bullpen depth, so it’s safe to assume that nearly all contenders are pursuing Miller. If the Cubs lose out on him, there’s another option available who may be just as good.