The Winter Meetings are officially over, and it didn’t end up being a terribly exciting week for the Yankees. There were some interesting rumors, but in the end they left Las Vegas only having re-signed J.A. Happ. Some relievers finally came off the board, though (Joe Kelly to the Dodgers, and Jeurys Familia to the Mets). We might see some of the bigger names sign soon. Over the past week or so, we’ve entertained the possibilities of the Yankees signing Zach Britton, David Robertson, or Adam Ottavino. Could a reunion with Andrew Miller be in store?
After a year and a half in pinstripes, the Bombers decided to dismantle their super-bullpen in 2016 and shipped Miller off to Cleveland. They received Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen in return. Coupled with the Aroldis Chapman trade to the Cubs, the Yankees walked away from that trade deadline with one of the best farm systems in baseball.
Miller was his typical self in the second half of 2016, and throughout the following season. In fact, he dialed things up a notch in 2017 and ended the year with an eye-popping 319 ERA+. It was the most successful season of his career in terms of WAR (3.1), despite the fact that he missed nearly a month with a right knee injury. When healthy, Cleveland couldn’t have asked for much more from him (except maybe not giving up that ALDS home run to Greg Bird).
Unfortunately, he was bit hard by the injury bug in 2018. Miller started the season fairly well, but was placed on the disabled list at the end of April. A left hamstring strain kept him off the field for over two weeks, and his return was short-lived. Just two weeks later, the southpaw hit the DL with right knee inflammation. Again. This time, the injury—patellar tendinitis—caused him to miss over two months of action. A month later, he suffered an external impingement in his left shoulder that sidelined him for another couple of weeks.
The 2018 campaign was easily Miller’s worst season since the Red Sox moved him from the rotation to the bullpen back in 2012. He tossed just 34 innings, his strikeouts dipped to 11.9 K/9, his walk rate ballooned to 4.2, and he posted a 4.24 ERA (3.51 FIP).
Miller is likely the biggest gamble out of the top relievers left on the free agency market. Knee injuries are brutal for pitchers, as we’ve learned from CC Sabathia’s degenerative knee condition, and the left knee tendinitis that plagued Chapman for most of last year. On the other hand, he could be the best of that group if he is able to get completely healthy. That’s kind of a big if though.