The most famous free agent names continue to draw the attentions of fans, but there is also a class of players that could provide a smaller upgrade to the Yankees roster without much of the fanfare. Brad Miller has put together a solid major league career and has been on the Yankees’ radar as recently as 2019, when he played part of the season with Triple-A Scranton in between MLB opportunities with other franchises. He might very well be a fit for the organization again, but this time, it could be in the Bronx.
After being released by Cleveland in early 2019, Miller landed with the Yankees organization playing for Triple-A Scranton. He lit up the International League, slashing .294/.399/.596 in 41 games. He also connected for 10 homers in that stretch, putting himself in the mix for another major league run. With Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu locking up their roles in the Yankees infield that year, Miller was left off the 40-man roster and in the minor leagues until the Philadelphia Phillies called. After being purchased from New York in mid-June, Miller produced an impressive 12 homers and 136 OPS+ in 118 at-bats for the Phillies for the rest of the season.
Last offseason, Miller landed in St. Louis and once again produced above-average offense. He batted .232/.357/.451 with seven long balls in 142 at-bats for the Cardinals. His strong on-base percentage and ability to infuse the lineup with lefty power seems likely to attract a level of interest from the Yankees.
In addition to his solid numbers, Miller was well above-average in exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and walk rate. His sprint speed is not elite, but is in the 61st percentile of major league players.
Miller is a left-handed hitter who improved slightly across the board when facing right-handed pitchers, slashing .240/.364/464 in 2020. The Yankees’ roster is routinely criticized by fans and the press for being too right-handed while playing in a stadium with dimensions asking for left-handed power hitters. Miller could certainly help round out the lineup and bench depth.
Over the last two seasons, Miller has played mostly at third base and is not considered a plus defender at any position. He also has experience at both second and in the outfield. He has fallen down the defensive spectrum in his career after starting as a shortstop (the most frequent position of his career). Miller is not a replacement for LeMahieu by any stretch, but his defensive versatility overlaps with Thairo Estrada and Miguel Andújar’s recent roles on the Yankees. Both of those players have minor league options, so this is also not a move that jettisons them from the organization. Miller’s simply more likely to be a reliable contributor than Estrada or Andújar.
Craig Edwards of FanGraphs projects Miller signing a one-year deal for around $5 million heading into 2021. The site’s Steamer projects have him accumulating 0.9 fWAR in 2021, which would more than justify that type of deal.
The Yankees would do well to check in on a player like Brad Miller. He can play multiple positions, while getting on base at a strong rate and punishing pitcher’s mistakes. He is not a major acquisition, but one who could more than do his part to make the team incrementally better.