The New York Yankees addition of closer Aroldis Chapman is all the more reason for why they need to hang on to Andrew Miller.
By William Chase
The New York Yankees need to keep closer Andrew Miller. Not because of the supposed historic proportions a bullpen of Dellin Betances, Miller and Aroldis Chapman provide. Not just because a dominant bullpen can make up for a shaky rotation.
New York Yankees’ closer Andrew Miller has been the subject of on-again, off-again trade rumors this offseason. The Yankees’ most recent acquisition of closer Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds might have made it more likely Brian Cashman pursues a trade for Miller, the 2015 AL reliever of the year.
As Cashman said recently regarding Miller trade offers, per ESPN:
“I’m sure we’ll get a lot of interesting calls between now and whenever.”
Cashman, however, has maintained his desire to hold onto Miller, and that would be the wise move for New York. Though the Yankees could benefit from getting out from under the $27 million still owed to Miller through 2018, and while setup man Dellin Betances appears to be a closer in the wings, along with Chapman coming in, the Chapman arrival actually makes for a more compelling case for New York to keep Miller as opposed to shipping him out.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) December 28, 2015
Chapman, currently under investigation for an assault case stemming from Oct. 30, is potentially going to be suspended. The Yankees would still have Betances and Miller available for the 8th and 9th innings.
The Yankees in 2015 received 912.0 innings from their rotation, only 12th of 15 AL teams. The bullpen was responsible for the third most innings in the league.
It is dangerous having to rely on a bullpen to get through the final 3+ innings of a game more often than not; but this is the predicament the Yankees are in. The rotation has its question marks, and the bullpen, being the obvious strength of this ball club, can potentially take the Yankees where other top bullpens in the majors have taken their teams—the Kansas City Royals finished last in 2015 in innings pitched out of the rotation and the bullpen finished with the No. 1 ERA.
Of course, that’s not to say the Yankees are a finished product because of the Chapman trade. Though Cashman has implied he is done making any changes to the rotation, it’s only Jan. 2. Anything can change.
Cashman: “Our rotation is full.” Sounds like there might not be a starting pitching move on the horizon.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) December 28, 2015
The adverse effects of an overused bullpen reared its ugly head last September. Chasen Shreve struggled in September and Betances had control issues. Betances had a 1.84 ERA in September, but that month was also the second highest all season— notwithstanding his 4.50 ERA through two October regular season games, and one postseason appearance.
Betances was No. 1 among AL relievers in innings pitched in 2015.
Joe Girardi on the bullpen last September, per Bryan Hoch/MLB.com:
“If you’re in the bullpen the whole year and you’re an eighth-inning or ninth-inning guy, there’s probably going to be some fatigue all around the league.”
Shreve had a fantastic season, but the rails fell off in September, when he gave up seven runs, and posted an 11.12 ERA.
Justin Wilson was a very effective piece of a bullpen that is no more in the Bronx, getting traded to the Detroit Tigers in December. Wilson was second in the AL with 29 holds, and that reliable source being gone, adds to why the Yankees would be wise to keep the potential three-headed monster of betances, Miller and Chapman. At least Betances and Miller assuming Chapman is suspended.
The Yankees are a flawed team, good enough to challenge for the AL East. Trading Andrew Miller could signify playing for 2017 and beyond, depending on the haul they bring in, however keeping Miller can signify playing for 2017 and beyond, based on the reliability and strength of Miller and its bullpen depth.
Yankees’ relievers struck out the most batters in 2015 (596) and threw the third most innings in the AL (530.2). The 9,927 pitches thrown by the relief corps was No. 1 in the AL as well.
The Yankees, in a transitional phase or not, with a rotation full of question marks or not, are a better team with a bullpen of Betances, Miller and Chapman. Let’s not forget Chapman is also a free agent following the 2016 season, perhaps 2017 if a lengthy suspension should happen. But that appears to be unlikely now.
As potentially great Chapman makes the Yankees’ bullpen, it’s better to have Miller around in case Chapman isn’t back following 2016, and among a number of various scenarios: injury, bullpen depth, or what if Chapman struggles amid these allegations? What if he has trouble with the American League hitters, or even struggles with the city and pressure of New York?
A compelling case can be made for why it would be smart to move Miller, aside from monetary reasons, his stock being at a high point. Whether teams are willing to give up what the Yankees deem desirable enough to move Miller is unknown.
Barring a return that makes Cashman foolish not to consider a trade of Miller, retaining Miller is the safe bet.