Many tasks on the Red Sox’s offseason agenda still need to be completed. In terms of the closer spot, one possible route is a very familiar one.
As we now near the last month of what will be remembered as a highly famed year for the Boston Red Sox, all attention turns to free agency. With many different holes to fill before the 2019 season, it is going to be an important period which will lay the groundwork for a season of protecting the top spot in baseball.
Internally, the offseason so far has seen Boston bring back World Series MVP, Steve Pearce. There are still question marks above the heads of starting pitcher, Nathan Eovaldi and relief pitcher, Joe Kelly – two heroes of last seasons campaign.
A player who has been integral to what the Red Sox have built over the last few years, Craig Kimbrel, is also a free agent. Kimbrel is likely to command a very large sum over a multi-year deal. This is something that, if given, would alter numerous areas when looking at the future of this roster and how it will be shaped. If the Sox bring Kimbrel back, there’s no doubt he has the talent to be the closer for the next few years but it would be a huge commitment.
They could decide to use somebody else as the closer. One option would be very familiar to Red Sox fans.
Andrew Miller, a member of the Cleveland Indians in 2018, spent three and a half season with Boston from 2011-2014. Over recent years, Miller has established himself as one of the most dominant closing pitchers in the majors when on his game. With the lefty now hitting the free agency market, he is a solid option if Boston decides to bring in a new closer.
Although the Red Sox bullpen was scrutinized for the majority of the 2018 season, the staff shut down doubters with a number of gutsy performances in the postseason. If the front office decides to part ways with Kimbrel, Miller would be a tremendous addition to a growing pen. He would bring in a ton of experience as a major league closer, which would help all of the bullpen staff. He also knows what it’s like to pitch in the most historic ballpark in the league.
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Since leaving Beantown in 2014, with a ring, Miller has gone on to shine. For the last three seasons, Cleveland proved to be a successful destination for the veteran pitcher. He went on to make two All-Star appearances and was a major key to the Indians 2016 postseason run when they made a trip to the World Series on the back of an astonishing ALCS from Miller, which saw him win the MVP.
An aging Miller, who has produced his best work in recent years, would be an interesting asset to have. It would also allow the Sox to maintain a significant amount of salary, as Kimbrel looks in line for a 4-year, $70 million deal, while Miller would likely command $27 million for 3 years – a significant drop. While Kimbrel is considered by many as the top closer in baseball, you have to look at it financially as well, and Miller wouldn’t be a bad replacement.
While 2015 and 2016 have been his best years, finishing 10th and 9th in AL Cy Young award voting for the Yankees and Indians, respectively, he still looks to have plenty in the tank, while fully fit.
Last season saw his numbers worsen significantly, in comparison to seasons prior. But this doesn’t come as a massive shock as Miller was held back by injury, resulting in him missing extended periods of the year with knee and shoulder problems. These injuries shouldn’t present a huge problem for any team looking to give him a deal, but they are worth noting as any deal could be high risk-high reward.
Despite an injury-plagued year, Miller was able to make it back for the postseason, but only thew 22 pitches in the Indians’ ALDS loss to Houston. He’s proved prior that he can be an effective regular season pitcher and a weapon from the bullpen come the postseason. Whether the Sox decide on Kimbrel, internal help or free agents, Miller will be an option to consider highly as the 2018 World Series champions look to defend their title in 2019.