photo: Andrew Miller (Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports)
Friday morning update
This would make the total value of the deal – if it reaches three years – to be $34.5 million plus the appearance incentives. Maximum possible, $36 million.
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
Free agent left-handed relief pitcher Andrew Miller is nearing a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on a contract that is expected to be at least two years in duration, potentially with an incentive-generated third year. The news the agreement was close was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Miller and Zach Britton were the top left-handed relievers on the free agent market and the Cardinals were reportedly interested in both.
Miller was coming off a four-year, $36 million contract signed in December 2014. The exact years and terms of the new deal is not yet known.
As in any move, there is risk, but this one also offers tremendous upside. When all is said and done, this new contract is much less dependent on the money, and more so on if the dominant prior-to-2018 Miller is the one who pitches for St. Louis.
In the six years from 2012-2017, Miller logged a 2.01 ERA and struck out 14.1 batters per nine innings. However, last season, it dropped to 4.24 ERA with a still-strong 11.9 strikeout rate that would have been highest on the 2018 Cardinals. His FIP was somewhat better at 3.51.
The underlying issues are Miller’s health and age. In his age 32-33 season last year, Miller was on the disabled list three times – with a left hamstring strain, right knee inflammation and a left shoulder impingement. However, he was given a clean bill of health from doctors last month.
Between 2014 and 2017, Miller delivered between 2.0 and 3.0 fWAR each season, averaging 2.4 per year. In 2018, 2.4 fWAR would have made him the second-best pitcher on the Cardinals staff, after Miles Mikolas (4.3).
However, that would not have happened. Miller’s 2018 was injury-plagued with the disappointing results noted above. His bottom line was 0.4 fWAR, slightly less than Jordan Hicks (0.5) and a bit better than Dominic Leone and Mike Mayers (0.3).
The Cardinals currently do not have a defined closer and it remains to be seen whether Miller will play that role or it is taken by another reliever or shared among several. Miller is also capable of pitching multiple innings if needed.
This contract may not preclude the addition of a second left-hander from the outside, but that remains to be seen. Incumbent bullpen lefties Brett Cecil and Chasen Shreve are both under contract for 2019 but are coming off a disappointing 2018.
With a full 40-man roster, the Cardinals will need to remove a player to accommodate Miller’s addition.
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