After signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to substantial contracts, the Red Sox have shored up any potential weaknesses in their lineup. However, there’s still plenty of work to be done on the pitching staff, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen, where the Red Sox are in need of a quality left-handed reliever. Former Boston bullpen resident Andrew Miller is the marquee name among left-handed relievers on the free agent market, but with recent news that he will almost definitely receive a four-year contract, he certainly won’t be cheap.
The Red Sox initially acquired Miller, a former first-round draft pick who had seemingly fizzled out, in a trade with the then Florida Marlins. He struggled in his first season in Boston when the team used him as a back-end starter, but 2012 marked a major transition point for the tall southpaw.
In one of Bobby Valentine‘s few good moves, he placed Miller in the bullpen, where he could utilize his excellent stuff over shorter stints and his high walk rate wouldn’t be as much of a problem. Miller made an immediate impact in the Boston bullpen, posting a 3.35 ERA with an 11.5 K/9 over 53 appearances and earning a spot in the 2013 ‘pen.
Miller’s 2013 season was cut short by a foot injury, but when healthy he was dominant, posting a 2.64 ERA with a remarkable 14.1 K/9 in 37 outings. However, 2014 was the first time that Miller really put it all together over a full season as he lowered his ERA to a stingy 2.02, while raising his K/9 to 14.9 and cutting his BB/9 in half from 5.0 in 2013 to just 2.5 in 2014.
In a lost season for the Red Sox, though, the team traded Miller to Baltimore in exchange for top prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, which was an objectively excellent trade for the Red Sox. After trading Miller, the team does need to fill the vacancy of that left-handed ace in the back end of their bullpen.
It remains to be seen whether the Red Sox will pay the big bucks for Miller, as a four-year contract to a 29-year old reliever could wind up being a mistake. However, there is a possibility that Miller would take a slight pay cut to return to Boston, the organization that made him into the dominant reliever that he now is. Still, the Red Sox might be best served to find cheaper options for their impact lefty.