Welcome back, Mr. Miller?
When the Yankees signed Andrew Miller to a four-year deal before the 2015 season, trading him was certainly not among the first thoughts. Yet, as the Yankees underperformed the following season, the club parted ways with the dominant lefty reliever as part of its quick revamp of the farm system. The club was clear that it valued Miller's time and now there is a chance for a reunion as he sits on the free agent market.
Here are the pros and cons of the Yanks signing Miller, what he might cost, and what the team should ultimately do…
What makes Miller a better fit than others?
The easy answer here is familiarity. The organization knows Miller's work ethic, his strengths, weaknesses and how integral he can be to the back end of the bullpen structure.
New York needs a strong southpaw for the bullpen outside of its lefty closer Aroldis Chapman. If we attribute Miller's struggles in 2018 to his string of injuries, he remains an elite left-handed option -- one that could pick up any slack should Chapman suffer any health issues himself.
The Yankees found some success with left-handed reliever Stephen Tarpley at the end of the 2018 season, but this is Andrew Miller -- one of the premier relievers in the game, when healthy.
What makes Miller a lesser fit than others?
For Miller, "when healthy," will be the key to his next contract. Miller racked up three stints (96 total days) on the DL in 2018, with assorted ailments, from a strained hamstring and a shoulder impingement to more issues with his right knee. Miller has hit the DL for the knee three times in over the last two seasons.
The fact that Miller will play 2019 in his age-34 season is another area of concern when comparing him with other relievers. The knee troubles and other assorted maladies will likely continue to creep up for Miller as time goes on.
Whether it was Miller not being completely healthy or not, Miller was not on top of his game in 2018. In 34 innings (37 appearances), he worked to a 4.24 ERA (3.51 FIP) with a 1.38 WHIP, 11.9 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9. Those marks were far worse than anything he produced in the previous six seasons.
What is the expected contract value for Miller?
Despite injury issues and a down 2018, Miller will receive attention from plenty of teams, including some that might consider him an option to close out games. If that's the case, Miller's cost and potential contract term could creep outside the parameters the Yankees might have set.
Estimates for Miller's take this offseason range from one year at $13 million to two years for $22 million to three years for $27 million. Clubs that are looking for elite potential at the back end of the bullpen can withstand the average annual value Miller will command, but it is the length of the contract that could become problematic.
Miller's medical records, which have been requested by the Yankees, will no doubt receive a thorough vetting by the club. Should Miller's health check out and the Yanks advance beyond preliminary discussions, they'll have to weigh the potential that saw Miller generate a 2.01 ERA (213 ERA+), 0.89 WHIP and 14.1 K/9 across a six-season stretch from 2012-17 (332 innings, 350 appearances) against the chance that his health continues to deteriorate.
Of other top relief arms on the free agent market, Miller might take the lowest deal, with David Robertson (34 years old in 2019) and Adam Ottavino (33 next season and Tommy John surgery behind him) potentially able to earn more based on health in Robertson's case and a dominant 2018 season in Ottavino's case.
In my view, if the Yankees decide to shy away from Robertson (what team knows him better at this point?), then trying to work out a deal for Miller makes sense. Their bullpen depth could allow them to utilize Miller in a less demanding (in terms of usage and rest, not leverage) manner, which might allow him to produce closer to the metrics from the six-year span preceding the 2018 season.
As for the contract offer, I would stick in the two-year, $16-18 million range. I would not recommend a three-year deal, though it would not be surprising if a club goes to the third year to secure his services. At that point, the Yankees should wish Miller luck.