Late Thursday night, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Cardinals were closing in on a deal with free agent, left-handed reliever Andrew Miller.
#STLCards closing in on free-agent reliever Andrew Miller, sources tell The Athletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 21, 2018
The Cardinals’ front office made it known that they were looking to upgrade the bullpen heading into the 2019 season. The relievers blew a lot of leads for the team last season, and heading into the offseason, there were a lot of big names available via trade or free agency.
Compared to other big name relievers, St. Louis got Miller on a dime. Rosenthal was first to report the details of the contract.
Andrew Miller’s deal with #STLCards, per source: Two years, $25M, plus vesting option, full no-trade clause. Option worth $12M, vests at 110 games combined in 2019-20. Incentives: $500K per year based on appearances. Breakdown: $11M in 2019, $11.5M in ‘20, $2.5M buyout on option.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 21, 2018
Andrew Miller was an absolute stud from 2014-2017 out of the bullpen for the Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, and most recently, the Indians. Over the span of 261 innings, he posted a 1.72 ERA along with a 1.83 FIP. He added 14.52 K/9, while posting just 2.31 BB/9. Outside of a David Ross HR in the 2016 World Series, he was utterly dominant during the Indians 2016 postseason run. Over 19.1 innings on baseball’s biggest stage, he posted a 1.40 ERA with 13.97 K/9.
The Cardinals signed Miller on a dime, right? One of the elite relievers in baseball for $11 million per year? This signing would be a sure thing if 2018 didn’t happen. Last season, Miller struggled like never before from the bullpen. In a season that saw him go on the Disabled List 3 separate times, he posted a 4.24 ERA in just 34 innings.
The most worrisome thing about Miller isn’t his poor season. His downtick in velocity is almost always a sure sign of a pitcher starting to decline. In previous seasons, Miller’s fastball sat in the 96-97 MPH range, while 2018 showed it was more in the 93-94 MPH range. While a few MPH may not seem like a big deal, it almost always equates to waning success in the big leagues.
This is a high risk, high reward signing from a team desperate for bullpen help. While many fans wanted Zach Britton instead of Miller, the front office continues to walk the walk after expressing the importance of the 2019 season.