Cardinals Finally Sign Trever Miller (Really)

Cardinals Finally Sign Trever Miller (Really)

After an unusually long delay of almost two weeks, the St. Louis Cardinals and left-handed reliever Trever Miller finally tied the knot on a one-year relationship.

The St. Louis Cardinals dusted off their already-written press release when they announced Wednesday that they have finally agreed to terms with free-agent relief pitcher Trever Miller on a one-year contract for the upcoming 2009 season. 

 

Miller told MLB.com his deal includes incentives that give him a total potential take of $2 million if he meets them all. Tampa Bay declined a $2 million club option on Miller for 2009 last month. Instead, they paid him a $400,000 buyout. They also declined arbitration but with Miller being neither a Type A nor Type B free agent, the Rays would have received no draft pick compensation for losing him, anyway.

 

The 35-year-old is a veteran of eight-plus seasons in the majors and was a member of the American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays this past season.  Miller went 2-0 with a 4.15 ERA in 2008, appearing in 68 games – the 7th highest total among American League lefties.

 

His career totals include a 14-14 mark with 10 saves and a 4.43 ERA in 519 appearances.  Miller is ranked in a tie for third among Major League lefthanders in games pitched since 2003, totaling 414 appearances over that seven-year span.

 

A deal for Miller was supposedly done several weeks ago, but after the player completed his physical on November 21, a report surfaced in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Cardinals medical staff raised concerns about the health of his shoulder.

 

The story mentioned that Miller had surgery eight years ago to repair a torn labrum. Unless there was new damage or deterioration, that seems like an awfully long time ago. Perhaps it was used to buy the two parties time to finish a deal that already looked very done by the time Miller traveled to St. Louis for his physical.

 

Though unconfirmed, one of our sources suggested the delay was financially-driven surrounding the timing of the payout. Yet, the fact the announced deal is one year rather than two as expected previously adds credence to the medical angle.

 

Whether medical or money, the issues have somehow been resolved enough in the recent days such that the deal could be completed.

 

The club is expectedly pleased with their acquisition.

 

"Improving our bullpen – especially from the left side – is something that we have been continually focused on," said Cardinals' Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak.  "We feel that today's addition of Trever Miller – an experienced lefty reliever with a proven track record – is a very good step in that direction."  

 

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Miller limited left-handed batters to .209 batting mark (19-for-91) in 2008 while fanning 30 and walking just 10.  He allowed a total of just two home runs in his 43.1 innings pitched overall last season and allowed just 6 of 37 inherited runners (16%) to score, the fourth-best percentage in all of baseball, trailing only J.P. Howell, Jason Frasor and Jonathan Papelbon.  Miller has allowed just 24 of 125 (19%) of his inherited runners to score over the past three seasons – the top mark in the Majors (min. 100 inherited runners).

 

The Louisville, KY native is well-traveled, having made stops with Detroit (1996), Houston (1998-99 and 2006-07), Philadelphia (2000), Los Angeles Dodgers (2000), Toronto (2003) and Tampa Bay (2004-05 and 2008) over the course of his big league career.   He's made just one error in his Major League career, that coming in 2005, and he posted a Major League record streak of 121 straight appearances without receiving a decision from Sept. 30, 2006 to Aug. 3, 2008 when he was the winner vs. Detroit.

 

Commentary

 

Given the dollars are reasonable, the addition of Miller via a single year commitment is a decent move for the Cardinals - if he is slotted as a lefty specialist. Incumbent lefties Randy Flores and Ron Villone each had struggles in 2008, with the latter good against lefties and not so against righties, like Miller.

 

This move would be even better if a more balanced left-hander is added in addition to Miller. Against righties over his career, Miller has not been particularly effective, allowing a batting average of .293 and an extremely high WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.67. Last season for the Rays, the numbers were comparable to his career averages at .286 and 1.70, respectively.

 

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

 

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