Trading Andrew Miller might lend help to New York Yankees’ rotation, but at what cost to the bullpen?
By William Chase
You’ve got to love hot stove action.
Though the regular season is over and there won’t be any MLB action on the field for several months, the offseason rumors are running rampant. Some have teeth to it, some may not. It’s the time of year everything is discussed, and you never know where a simple gauging of player interest can lead.
If the Yankees trade Miller, they’re doing so, or at least were likely more inclined, after seeing the major haul in of prospects the San Diego Padres received at the hands of the Boston Red Sox for closer Craig Kimbrel.
Had one exec tell me this week he thinks Yankees “will move” Miller–for a big, Kimbrel-like package built around big-league ready starters
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) November 18, 2015
Whether or not the Yankees can find a trade partner who is willing to give up the haul required to move Miller is to-be-determined. When the Kansas City Royals made the World Series in 2014, the formula to their success centered heavily around their bullpen.
The Yankees approached 2015 with a similar monster of a pen, with Dellin Betances in the eighth and Miller taking the ball in the ninth — Betances led MLB relievers with 131 strikeouts and Miller ranked second in the AL with 100 in 2015.
In any scenario where Miller is not closing games for the Yanks, Betances slides into the ninth inning today and excels at it. Of course a trade of Miller opens the door to a pandora of opportunities, of whom New York could afford to sign or trade for.
Miller signed a 4-year contract worth $36 million last winter, and is owed $27 million over the next three seasons. The 30-year-old AL Reliever of the Year filled in admirably in his first full-time shot as a closer, saving 36 games in 38 opportunities, and pitching to the tune of a 2.04 ERA.
Betances has the stuff to move into the ninth inning, but that doesn’t mean everyone else in the bullpen could necessarily move up and have that same success. Certain innings present different challenges. Sure, the name of the game is to get three outs, but preparing for one inning can be an adjustment to preparing for another.
Maybe Adam Warren pitches well in setup — if he’s not in the rotation — or maybe they acquire another veteran arm to shoulder some of the load.
Reliever Chasen Shreve was among the bright spots in the Yankees’ pen last season, pitching superbly for New York April through August, but hit the wall in September, where he gave up seven runs and had a suddenly alarming 11.12 ERA.
Betances also struggled at times down the stretch, walking 11 batters in September, and made four appearances in the month in which he walked two or more batters. However he did not allow a run in those situations.
Of course it’s easy to understand why the bullpen lost its edge a bit, as the Yankees’ pen ranked third in the American League in innings pitched (530.2) and, Betances particularly, led MLB relievers with 84.0 innings pitched. As a team, the Yankees ranked 21st among all MLB teams in innings pitched by their starters (927.0), and were 12th out of 15 AL teams.
Naturally, when your best relievers are heavily used, it speaks to the lack of quality innings coming out of the rotation.
So yes, a potential trade of Miller and bringing in ‘Big League ready arms’ is enticing — IF that possibility can become a reality. The salary relief is also worth noting.
However, at the expense of helping the rotation, at what price does that hurt the rest of the bullpen? Arguably the strength of the team in 2015 — Yankees’ bullpen led baseball in strikeouts (596) and was third in opponents batting average (.231) — New York doesn’t want to attempt to shore up one area by taking too much away from another.
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