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Yankees sign Andrew Miller: Analyzing past free agent bullpen signings

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Looking back at some of the past free agent bullpen signings show some reward, but significant bust potential as well.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the Yankees made history with Andrew Miller, inking the dominant left-handed reliever to a four-year, $36 million deal. The contract is a new MLB record as the largest non-closer contract in baseball history. For the Yankees, this isn’t unchartered territory, as ownership has doled out record contracts on multiple occasions. They’ve set the bar in previous seasons for player contracts, such as Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million pact or CC Sabathia’s seven-year, $161 million deal. Let’s take a look at some other significant Yankees free agent reliever contracts and how they fared.

Rafael Soriano

At the time of his signing, there was a reported division between the front office and ownership on whether or not to sign him. Ultimately, ownership won out as Soriano agreed to become the richest non-closing reliever, signing a three-year contract worth $35 million, to be the set-up man for Mariano Rivera. Looking at the chart below, it was clearly a tale of two very different seasons for the right-hander.

Years

IP

ERA

FIP

K/9

BB/9

2011

39.1

4.12

3.97

8.24

4.12

2012

67.2

2.26

3.32

9.18

3.19

2011 was a year that found him missing nine weeks due to injury during the first half, struggling when healthy and ultimately demoted to the seventh inning. The following season was a complete turnaround for Soriano as the Yankees lost Mariano for the year and then fill-in closer David Robertson to injury. Installed as the closer he flourished, converting 42 of 46 save opportunities. During the offseason, he chose to opt-out of his final year to test the free agent market.

Steve Karsay

Steve Karsay was another non-closing bullpen pitcher to receive a record setting contract from the Yankees, as he came to agreement with the team on a four-year, $22.5 million deal. Unfortunately, the Yankees only received one year of a return on their investment, as injuries took their toll on the right-hander. Here are his numbers from his time in pinstripes:

Years

IP

ERA

FIP

K/9

BB/9

2002

88.1

3.26

3.61

6.62

3.06

2004

6.2

2.7

6.65

5.4

2.7

2005

6

6

2.35

7.5

3

The team finally bit the bullet and released him from his contract in 2005.

Pedro Feliciano

Back in 2011, the Yankees decided to pluck free agent lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano from the Mets, on a 2-year deal, worth $8 million. This contract will easily go down as one of the worst in team history, as a torn capsule and rotator cuff kept him from pitching a single inning for the club.

Tom Gordon

The Yankees were looking to solidify their bullpen and provide a solid bridge to Mariano Rivera during the 2003-04 offseason.  They accomplished their mission, reaching an agreement on a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the free agent right-hander. Looking at the numbers in the table below, he was a solid investment for the two seasons that he spent with the club.

Years

IP

ERA

FIP

K/9

BB/9

2004

89.2

2.21

2.44

9.64

2.31

2005

80.2

2.57

3.68

7.7

3.24

Kyle Farnsworth

With the departure of Tom Gordon via free agency, the Yankees had a set-up opening in their bullpen. They chose to fill that opening by signing Kyle Farnsworth to a three-year deal worth $17 million. The biggest issues of Farnsworth’s tenure in the Bronx were clearly walks and being homer prone, as he gave up an average of seven per year.

Years

IP

ERA

FIP

K/9

BB/9

2006

66

4.36

3.77

10.23

3.82

2007

60

4.8

5.04

7.2

4.05

2008

44.1

3.65

5.64

8.7

3.5

Wrap up

Relievers are generally a volatile commodity and can become ineffective from one season to the next without warning.  Hopefully, Andrew Miller can avoid falling into the group of failed Yankees signings.  With his new contract and the possible departure of David Robertson, the fans and the team are both counting on it.

**All stats courtesy of FanGraphs