Tag: Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Indians RP

With the Cleveland Indians looking to get over the World Series hump in 2017, trading star reliever Andrew Miller could make their task more difficult.

Continue for updates.

Report: Teams Inquiring About Miller

Wednesday, Nov. 9

Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Indians are getting calls about Miller from other teams, but general manager Mike Chernoff described any potential trade as “a long shot.”

The Indians acquired Miller from the New York Yankees on July 31. The lanky left-hander turned in a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 1.45 ERA with 123 strikeouts, 42 hits allowed and nine walks in 74.1 innings between the two teams.

With Cleveland’s starting rotation ravaged by injuries in the postseason, the team asked Miller to carry a heavy load out of the bullpen. Miller was brilliant, recording 30 strikeouts while allowing only 12 hits in 19.1 innings over 10 appearances, and was named the ALCS MVP, though the burden caught up to him in the World Series, when he allowed three runs over his last two appearances against the Chicago Cubs

The Indians operate on a limited financial budget, making Miller’s $9 million salary in each of the next two seasons more than mere chump change to them.

They would be foolish to immediately shoot down trade requests for any of their expensive players if the return is to their advantage.

With a team that will return starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, who missed most of the postseason, and outfielder Michael Brantley, who missed all but 11 games last season because of shoulder injuries, the Indians should be in the playoff mix again next year.

Miller makes their pitching staff deeper and provides an incredible bridge to closer Cody Allen. Unless the Indians get blown away with an offer, the southpaw will likely still be in Cleveland when the 2017 season begins.

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Indians Positioned Themselves for Possible World Series Win with 2 Bold Moves

CLEVELAND — One win away from their first World Series title in 68 years, it’s taken the Cleveland Indians far more than 68 moves to build this dream of a team.

And yet two bold statements stand out above all the rest.

The first was hiring manager Terry Francona back on Oct. 6, 2012.

The second was acquiring relief ace Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees on July 31.

This, of course, is not meant to minimize the importance of Jason Kipnis, the heartbeat of the Indians. Or Mike Napoli, the spiritual guru of the club. Or Francisco Lindor, who embodies Cleveland’s passion and fun. Nor ace Corey Kluber, whose acquisition from the San Diego Padres back in July 2010 is the closest thing baseball offers to a real, live stagecoach robbery.

All, obviously, are crucial pieces.

None, however, were the bold statements Francona and Miller represent.

You don’t hire a manager like Francona unless you’re drop-dead serious about winning. When the Indians hired the man who won two World Series in Boston to replace Manny Acta, they moved to the big boys’ table.

You don’t shop for a game-changer like Miller, sending the Yankees a four-prospect package that included prized outfield prospect Clint Frazier, unless you firmly believe you’re just one piece away. When the Indians acquired the 6’7″ lefty, they put that piece in place.

Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s president of baseball operations, is reluctant to speak in such dramatic terms, preferring instead to point out that it is an accumulation of a lot of things that has the Indians on the edge of exhilaration. All true.

But Antonetti also allows that Francona’s hire “was a pivotal time for our franchise, and without him, we wouldn’t be in the position we are today.”

Francona has managed his personnel this postseason the way a lion manages the jungle. He hasn’t nibbled. He hasn’t been tentative. From putting Miller on call for the majority of innings to moving Carlos Santana to left field for the first time this year amid the pressure of a World Series game, Francona has made it clear he’s going for the kill.

If the Indians obtain one more victory, Francona will have managed himself right into the Hall of Fame. Any manager who helps end the 86-year drought in Boston and a 68-year dry spell in Cleveland will not have to wait. Heck, he may be headed for Cooperstown even if the Indians somehow lose this World Series.

“Our vision is to win the World Series,” Antonetti says flatly, and let’s interrupt him right here for just a moment. Every executive of every team says that. But how many mean it? In a given year, if you weigh the moves they make against the words they speak, you can ascertain that many executives are speaking hollow words because either their owners won’t spend the money or they lack the creativity.

So, back to Antonetti.

“Every team is trying to hire a manager with that vision in mind,” he continues. “I think Tito’s track record, his demonstrated ability to lead, his reputation throughout the game within front offices, players, coaches, media—he’s universally respected. And so we’re really fortunate to have him, and I’m grateful I get to work alongside him every day.”

That may qualify as the understatement of the year.

Francona had been fired by the Red Sox following the 2011 season after eight summers there. He then sat out the 2012 campaign, spending it as a television analyst for ESPN. He needed time to decompress and survey the landscape following the pressure-cooker years in one of baseball’s toughest jobs.

Seizing the opportunity to hire Francona, the Indians found his impact on the organization extends far beyond his seat in the dugout.

“The way he connects with people,” Antonetti says. “We talk about it all the time, the way he builds relationships with players. But his relationship building extends beyond just that group. He does it with our scouts, with our player-development staff, with our front office.

“He builds those relationships and creates connections so that we have become, over time, a more integrated organization. You’ll see our scouts and our analytics guys all in the clubhouse interacting. He welcomes and fosters that environment.”

From clubhouse cribbage games with players to his complete honesty at all times, Francona has a rare ability to inspire trust among his players.

When those who were Indians back in the winter of 2012-13 learned the club had hired Francona, it was eye-opening news.

“You knew the reputation he had as a players’ manager; you knew he had just won rings in Boston, and the guys loved him and had nothing bad to say about him,” Kipnis says. “When you get someone who brings that over to your side, there is nothing but excitement. You feel very fortunate to play for a guy like that.”

To the point that Kipnis hopes it is permanent.

“You kind of hope you don’t play for anybody else,” Kipnis says. “You’re like, OK, I’m all right if he’s the manager for the rest of my career.”

The hire wasn’t simply impressive externally. Internally, it changed some of the players’ perceptions of their organization.

“You start thinking that you’re going to do things the right way,” Kipnis says. “Not that you were doing things the wrong way before, but you know his way works, and you’re going to do some things that work and that you know work. It gets you a little more excited at the possibility.”

Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall echoes Kipnis.

“I’m sure he had his pick of where he wanted to go,” Chisenhall says. “Just as much as us hunting him, he picked us. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

That’s the way it’s been with Miller, too. The big lefty went 4-0 with three saves and a 1.55 ERA in 26 games during the regular season. He’s also struck out 29 of 62 batters faced in the postseason while being deployed by Francona anywhere from the fifth inning on.

Acquiring Miller paid immediate dividends on the field and in the clubhouse. How? It gave the Indians even more swagger. They led the American League Central by 4.5 games on the day they traded for him; the deal was a statement they took to heart.

“I thought so,” Kipnis says. “You hate to say anything bad when the trade deadline’s going around. You get nervous, you knew we were in first place at the time and you wanted to make a move and you got [players] who start talking about, hey, it might send the wrong message if they don’t make a move. Because you’re not going to be in any better position than we were at the trade deadline, and if the front office isn’t going to show they’re behind you then, when are they? That’s what you start thinking.

“Then they go and get Andrew Miller and you’re like, I don’t know why we questioned them. They’re just as all-in as we are. And it makes you proud of them.”

The Indians first contacted the Yankees about Miller in mid-June, shortly after the amateur draft. It was simply a “Hey, we’re interested if you decide to trade him” sort of call. Each team discussed its needs.

The Indians also talked Aroldis Chapman, whom the Yankees wound up trading to the Cubs, and they checked in with Pittsburgh on closer Mark Melancon, who eventually went to Washington.

After three or four weeks of talks and “a lot of iterations” of the trade, according to Antonetti, they finally struck the deal.

Antonetti says the Indians had high expectations when they acquired Miller, viewing him as a pitcher who could throw multiple innings and work in different parts of a game, but “as a competitor, as a performer and as a teammate, if possible, he’s exceeded those expectations.”

The fact that Miller is in the second season of a four-year, $36 million deal gives him enough of a guarantee that he doesn’t have to worry about working in non-save situations, which dilute his saves total and in turn could lessen contract offers on the free-agent market. Although, the Indians are so impressed with him that Francona guesses Miller probably would be willing to pitch whenever, even if he didn’t already have a guaranteed deal.

“There was a pit in the bottom of your stomach, especially for a market like ours where we gave up guys who are going to be very good major league players,” Antonetti says of the deal. “And to give up that many guys of that quality is really difficult.”

Says Chisenhall, with appreciation: “When we needed to make a move this summer, they didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.”

You don’t often get an opportunity like Cleveland had this July. So when winning met the chance to acquire an impact reliever like Miller, the Indians seized it.

“That was a big part of the calculus,” Antonetti says. “The way our team played, we felt we would have a chance to compete for a postseason berth. And if we got there, obviously, we felt the goal was to win the World Series. And we felt Andrew would have an impact on that, not only this year but in the future.”

Together with Francona, that future appears pretty much like nirvana. Short term, especially. Back at home, the Indians have two chances to win just one game, which would produce their first World Series championship since 1948.

And long term, this is a young team that, much like division-rival Kansas City, could be on this October stage a few years in a row.

“Anybody who’s spent 10 minutes around me this year or the last four years knows how comfortable I am in this situation here,” Francona says. “I think Chris, if people were around him more…I don’t think people realize how good he is. Because we haven’t had the biggest payroll here, it’s not like when Jon Lester’s a free agent Chris was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think he’s any good.’ You know?

“You’re given a certain number, and you have to make that work, and he’s managed to put together four years of pretty good teams.”

Four years of pretty good teams, punctuated by two fearless statements. It’s a mix that has worked beautifully, and one the Indians hope pays off with one more victory over the next couple of games.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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ALCS MVP Andrew Miller Is Biggest Game-Changer of 2016 MLB Playoffs

The 2016 MLB postseason is butter, and Andrew Miller is a hot knife.

Miller got eight crucial outs Wednesday in the Cleveland Indians‘ 3-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, which sent the Tribe to their first World Series since 1997.

In all, Miller logged 7.2 scoreless innings in the ALCS. He allowed three hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out 14.

Those are stat-sheet-melting numbers. Somehow, though, they don’t do justice to what the lanky left-hander accomplished.

To truly appreciate Miller’s performance, you had to watch him befuddle a potent Blue Jays lineup, locating his fastball with pinpoint precision and eviscerating swings with his wipeout slider. And you had to watch him do the same thing to an even more dangerous Boston Red Sox offense in the division series.

Miller accepted his inevitable ALCS MVP trophy with characteristic humility.

“It’s a great team,” he said in postgame remarks to Turner Sports’ Ernie Johnson. “[The] defense. Our catcher Roberto Perez has been unbelievable. It’s so special to be a part of. Top to bottom, everybody did something to help us win.”

Fair enough. But let’s get real: Miller did the most.

No, he’s not the Indians’ closer. That role belongs to Cody Allen, who recorded the final three outs in Game 5 and has played a credible Robin to Miller’s Batman.

Miller is, however, drawing comparisons to the greatest postseason closer of all time, the New York Yankees‘ Mariano Rivera, from the likes of Pedro Martinez. Bleacher Report’s Zachary D. Rymer also dove into the Rivera-Miller parallel.

Miller hasn’t matched Rivera’s body of work. But he’s now thrown 20 postseason innings, including appearances with the Baltimore Orioles in 2014 and the Yankees in 2015, without allowing a run.

In these playoffs alone, he’s up to 11.2 innings with 21 strikeouts. That’s only seven shy of the all-time mark for a reliever in the postseason set by Francisco Rodriguez in 2002.

Cleveland limped into the playoffs with injured starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar on the shelf. Outside of ace Corey Kluber, its rotation was a flickering neon question mark.

Indians starters have held their own. In Game 5, rookie Ryan Merritt made the second start of his big league career and threw 4.1 gutsy, shutout frames.

Miller, though, has been the glue. Or the bridge. Pick your metaphor. He’s embodying the old-school firemanthe durable, lights-out reliever capable of stretching over two or more innings. In this era of pitch counts and revolving bullpen specialists, it’s a refreshing throwback.

Credit Indians skipper Terry Francona for trusting Miller and using him in a way that’s unconventional by 2016 standards. Then again, when something keeps working this well, why would you quit doing it?

Here’s a peek into Francona’s thinking on Miller, courtesy of MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince:

This postseason has featured its share of heroes. Edwin Encarnacion clubbed some big homers for Toronto. Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez has dazzled with his glove and bat. Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has shed his October stigma and delivered for L.A.

Miller, though, is easily the most pivotal game-changer on any playoff roster. If he can keep this rolling and get the Indians their first Commissioner’s Trophy since the Harry S. Truman administration, he’ll also go down as arguably the greatest trade-deadline acquisition ever.

After clinching Wednesday at the Rogers Centre, the Tribe get to fly home and enjoy five off days before opening the Fall Classic on Oct. 25 at Progressive Field.

That’s good news for the entire team but especially for Miller, who should be fully recharged to take on either the Dodgers or Cubs.

If you want to gaze ahead with caution, you could note that current Dodgers batters have hit a collective .318 off Miller, and Cubs hitters own a .292 average against him, per ESPN.com. The sample sizes are small, and the context is questionable, but that’s fodder for speculation, at least.

For now, Indians fans can exhale, sit back and take a moment to savor what just happened. Their slider-slinging southpaw is redefining dominance on a nightly basis. He’s making a run at history. Mostly, he’s just damn fun to watch.

Knife, meet butter. October, meet Andrew Miller.


All statistics current as of Wednesday and courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Andrew Miller Has Become the Mariano Rivera of New Postseason Age

What do you get when you take the postseason version of Mariano Rivera, flip him around, replace his deadly cutter with a deadly slider and ask him to take on a slightly different role?

Basically the Andrew Miller you’re seeing right now.

There were rumblings of the Cleveland Indians being on the verge of something special with their tall, lanky left-hander during their sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. The 6’7″ Miller pitched in two games, tallying four innings that included four baserunners and seven strikeouts. The way he was throwing, even foul balls were minor victories for Red Sox hitters.

Now it’s the Toronto Blue Jays‘ turn to find out how that feels.

Miller has picked up where he left off in the American League Championship Series, helping the Indians to a 2-0 win in Game 1 on Friday and a 2-1 victory in Game 2 on Saturday. Between the two contests, he’s logged 3.2 innings, allowed one hit and struck out 10 of the 12 batters he’s faced.

“It’s easy now,” Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez said, per August Fagerstrom of FanGraphs. “He’s too good, man.”

Miller had impressed in six previous October appearances, logging eight and a third scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts. But the mind boggles at what he’s done this October. He’s pitched 7.2 innings in which he’s faced 28 batters and allowed only five of them to reach and none to come home. He’s fanned 17.

That last figure already looms large in the postseason record books. Miller is now tied for the 10th-most strikeouts in a single postseason and is only 11 away from Francisco Rodriguez’s record of 28 from 2002. Even if it’s a clean four-game sweep, Miller could tie or surpass that mark by the end of the ALCS.

But it’s not Rodriguez’s name that’s suddenly being lumped into the conversation with Miller. It’s Rivera’s.

His name is popping up on Twitter in a way that it probably hasn’t since he pitched his last game for the New York Yankees in 2013. Among the hottest takes is this one from fellow pitching great Pedro Martinez:

This isn’t high praise for Miller. It is the highest of praise.

If you haven’t seen it in a while, I recommend going to the table of Rivera’s postseason numbers at Baseball-Reference.com. Like Martinez’s own prime or Barry Bonds’ entire career, it’s filled with so many ridiculous numbers that it looks more like some baseball egghead’s wild fantasy than a record of actual events.

But Rivera really did those things. He really did pitch in 96 games. He really did allow fewer earned runs (11) than there have been men on the moon (12). He really did allow only 86 hits and 21 walks in 141 innings. He really did blow only five saves.

There’s no bad postseason hiding in there. There were eight postseason runs in which the Yankees used Rivera in six or more games. He never did worse than a 1.72 ERA in any of those. His peak was in 2009, when he tallied 16 innings and allowed only one run in 12 appearances.

The difficulty in comparing Rivera in the postseason to Miller in the postseason has to do with their roles. The Yankees almost exclusively used Rivera to finish games. Cleveland skipper Terry Francona is using Miller as a bridge to Cody Allen, bringing him into contests as early as the fifth inning.

But while he may not be finishing games and fattening his numbers even more by doing so, there has indeed been the same kind of “Game Over” feeling when Miller has entered games that used to exist with Rivera.

This is partially a matter of signature pitches. Rivera had his cutter, which Chipper Jones once said was “like a buzz saw,” per Bob Klapisch at Fox Sports. Miller has his slider. It’s a devilish pitch that he throws often. Per Baseball Savant, swings and misses on sliders accounted for 13.8 percent of all Miller’s pitches in the regular season, easily the highest mark of any pitcher.

It’s been same ol’, same ol’ in October, where not even reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson can keep himself from looking like a rag doll after swinging at it. Behold the visual evidence from Fagerstrom:

What Miller also has in common with Rivera in October is his ability to work more than one inning. Rivera did that 58 times. Miller has gone more than one inning in each of his appearances this October, and eight of 10 for his career in the postseason.

As such, the innings in which Miller’s dominance is taking place are really the only difference between him now and Rivera at his postseason best. And even that is arguably only footnote fodder now that the relief pitcher landscape is changing the way it is.

“It’s turning the baseball world upside down, the way bullpens have been used lately,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said before the ALCS, per Ted Berg of For The Win.

Miller and Francona are at the vanguard of the movement. The conventional wisdom used to be that elite relievers were to be used only in high-leverage innings, preferably with the last three outs on the line. Following a trade that brought Miller from the Yankees in July, Francona made it clear with his aggressive use of the lefty that he was tired of abiding by that wisdom.

“I hate waiting for the ninth inning,” Francona told The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh. “I never did understand that. You know, you wait around, wait around, and you lose a game in the eighth. Well, wait a minute, that might’ve been the most important inning of the game.”

What Francona is doing now is something so obvious it’s a wonder he’s the first to do it. He’s essentially treating all postseason innings as the most important inning of the game. They’re all high-leverage innings. That means taking no chances, which means using your best pitchers when you can.

Even if he’s not yet on the future Hall of Famer’s level, Miller is basically the second coming of Rivera in this sense: He’s the best at doing what only the best relievers should do.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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The Blue Jays vs. Indians ALCS Goes Through Andrew Miller

In Terry Francona’s script for the latest season of MLB‘s hit drama Postseason Baseball, the most important role in the American League Championship Series may be a middle reliever.

This one just so happens to be played by one of the nastiest pitchers in the league.

It’s a departure from the usual script, but it’s a reality the Toronto Blue Jays must be prepared for with Game 1 of the ALCS set for Friday. Francona used Andrew Miller twice in the Cleveland Indians‘ AL Division Series sweep of the Boston Red Sox, and the lefty took no prisoners:

Short version: 16 batters faced, four baserunners, seven outs the easy way and, most importantly, no runs. 

These outs loomed large in real time, when there was no ignoring how the postseason bullpen mantra of “Just have a lead after six” changed into “Just have a lead after four or five.” These outs also loom large on paper. Baseball-Reference.com calculates Miller swayed Cleveland’s win probability by 26.3 percent. Through Monday’s action, only three pitchers had done better in the divisional round.

So much for the decree that elite relievers must handle only high-leverage innings, much less the last three outs. This was Francona and Miller acknowledging that all postseason innings are high-leverage innings. But also, this was acknowledging that the big picture is really quite simple.

“The point isn’t to use your best relievers in the biggest moments,” wrote Neil Weinberg at FanGraphs. “The point is to maximize your odds of winning the game.”

Indeed. And for Francona and Miller, the revolution began well before the postseason arrived.

With a 1.77 ERA and 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings in the first year-and-a-half of his four-year, $36 million contract with the New York Yankees, Miller was an obvious trade target for an Indians bullpen that needed another shutdown arm to pair with closer Cody Allen. But to justify the price of acquiring Millerthe remainder of his contract and a package of prospects headlined by Clint Frazierthe Indians would need to get a lot out of him down the stretch.

That was precisely what Francona had in mind, telling The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh that he saw “a guy that is willing to pitch any inning.” He put that theory to the test when he called on Miller in the sixth inning in just his second appearance with the club on August 4.

That equaled the number of times Miller had come into a game before the eighth in his entire tenure with the Yankees. It ended up being one of nine times he did so in his 26 appearances with Cleveland. He dominated the whole way, racking up a 1.55 ERA with 46 strikeouts and two walks in 29 innings.

Miller obviously still has the stuff that’s made him one of baseball’s elite strikeout relievers since 2012. He throws a mid-90s fastball with good life and a slider that can make hitters dance as if an old-timey Western villain is shooting at their feet.

Observe an example here, courtesy of The Pitcher List:

When necessary, Miller also has the goods to last more than one inning: a background as a starting pitcher and efficiency that, even despite his now-extreme slider usage, has never been better.

He walked a career-low 1.1 batters per nine innings this season with control that, given his history as a left-handed clone of Nuke LaLoosh, even his biggest believers from back in the day didn’t see coming. Here’s Aaron Fit of D1Baseball.com:

And whereas other late-inning relievers might scoff at being used so far away from the almighty “save,” Miller has an aw-shucks attitude about it.

“I don’t know why I get credit for that, I think most guys would do the same thing,” Miller said on the eve of the ALDS, via Erik Boland of Newsday. “I think at the end of the day if everybody’s on the page that winning’s the most important thing, something like that doesn’t matter.”

One question for the future is whether Cleveland’s usage of Miller will be the start of a league-wide trend, or if it’s a unique situation. It seems everyone wants to believe the former, but it may be the latter.

After all, relievers with great stuff and great control and a previously stretched-out arm and a willingness to do heavy lifting before the late innings aren’t plentiful. If teams want them, they’re going to have to cultivate them. That runs the risk of overextending a relief pitcher or diminishing the role of an otherwise promising starting pitcher.

The question for today, however, is for the Blue Jays: How are they going to avoid letting Miller do to them what he did to the Red Sox?

The most obvious solution is to not repeat the Red Sox’s mistake of letting games fall into Miller’s hands. He had leads to protect both times he pitched in the ALDS because Boston hitters couldn’t get to Cleveland starters, scoring only five runs off Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin.

The Red Sox had the best offense in the league this year, but it got passive. Per Baseball Savant, Boston hitters swung at only 40.9 percent of the pitches they saw, the lowest mark of all playoff teams as of Tuesday morning. Even against Tomlin, a notorious strike-thrower, too many bats stayed on too many shoulders.

The Blue Jays must change the way they operate to avoid falling into that same trap. They had the most patient offense in MLB, seeing a league-high 4.03 pitches per plate appearance. That had the purpose of feeding the team’s .330 on-base percentage and .426 slugging percentage, but it could backfire if it doesn’t lead to runs before Miller Time.

Failing that, whatever aggression Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and the rest of Toronto’s hitters don’t take out on Cleveland’s starters should be saved for Miller himself. In the regular season, anything after the first pitch was thin-ice territory:

  • First pitch: 1.214 OPS
  • Even count: .724 OPS
  • Batter ahead: .556 OPS
  • Pitcher ahead: .282 OPS

In this context, “be aggressive” isn’t meant to encourage Blue Jays hitters to string hits together off Miller. For all his dominance, he gave up eight home runs this season. That’s an open invitation for the Blue Jays to be true to their nature.

“We rely upon that home run ball,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after his team slugged eight dingers in their ALDS sweep of the Texas Rangers, via Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com. “You know what? Whether you like it or not, that’s the kind of players we have.”

The Blue Jays will be in trouble if they can’t get to Indians starters or to Miller himself. Give or take, that would leave them with three innings to do damage against the rest of Cleveland’s pitchers. That’s a small window that will be populated by good arms. Although not on Miller’s level, Allen, Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw are quality pitchers.

And the Blue Jays may need more than just one or two runs if they can’t break through before the late innings. The Indians have a deep lineup that features a near-constant platoon advantage. Following a season in which it finished second in the AL in runs, the Cleveland offense hit a solid .271 and scored 15 runs in the ALDS.

So while Miller won’t be the best player on the field in the ALCS, he will indeed be the most important. He’ll be the ace everyone knows Francona has up his sleeve, forcing Gibbons and the Blue Jays to play their cards accordingly. If they do that well, Miller’s ALDS dominance will be an anomaly.

If not, things will keep going according to Francona’s script.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Scott Miller’s Starting 9: Rangers, Indians, Cubs Race Toward History

Trading places, trading stories, trading, trading, trading…. Reactions, thoughts and takeaways…


1. Sacred Moment, Sacred Teams

Maybe the Chicago Cubs break their 107-year World Series-less drought this year, maybe they don’t. But in picking up closer Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs boldly made the move they needed to make to give this team an even better chance to win.

Afterward, Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, offered this untradeable quote:

“Every chance to win is sacred,” he told USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale. “So if you don’t do it now, when?

“We have a healthy rotation, a healthy bullpen, two MVP candidates and a team that has built this big lead. You can’t just take that for granted.”

Write that down, print it out and tack it up on your wall.

Every chance to win is sacred. So if you don’t do it now, when?

Credit the Cleveland Indians for recognizing that in dealing four prospects to the New York Yankees for lefty setup man Andrew Miller.

Credit the Texas Rangers for recognizing it and acquiring both Carlos Beltran (from the Yankees) and Jonathan Lucroy (from the Brewers).

Credit the Washington Nationals for recognizing it and scooping up closer Mark Melancon (from the Pirates).

Credit Miami for acquiring a couple of starting pitchers and a closer, even if the Marlins did wind up sending injured Colin Rea back to the Padres in a partial reversal of last week’s deal on Monday.

The Cubs (last won a World Series in 1908), Cleveland (1948), Rangers (never in their 55-year existence, since 1961) and Nationals (last World Series in D.C.: 1924) represent the longest World Series droughts in the game.

On the opposite end, you have the Dodgers, who I wrote last week blew it by not making a bold move one year ago to put their team over the top. When you have an in-his-prime Clayton Kershaw (last year), history will be a harsh judge if you don’t take advantage of those chances to win.

So now will Los Angeles’ acquisitions this year of lefty starter Rich Hill and outfielder Josh Reddick put the Dodgers over the hump? I still don’t think the moves were bold enough, but with Kershaw injured and Zack Greinke gone, it isn’t nearly as egregious as the Dodgers’ work last year at the deadline.

Certain fanbases have been waiting their entire lives for a World Series title. As former San Francisco Giants coach Tim Flannery is fond of saying, you don’t pick the time to win, the time to win picks you.

Some teams recognize that better than others. When the time to win picks you, you need to move. Prospects are enormously important, yes. But every season is not a one-size-fits-all blueprint. Sometimes, the best thing you can do with those prospects is turn them into major league players who can help you win, and win now.


2. Cleveland Goes All-In

Imagine a World Series between a Cubs franchise and an Indians franchise that collectively have not won in 174 years.

What a story that would be, and the Indians did their part by acquiring lefty Andrew Miller at the trade deadline to boost a pitching staff that already has what it takes to win the American League pennant.

For that, credit a front office that, recently, too often has been too timid at this time of year to make the big move. But here’s the thing: The Indians hired Terry Francona to manage before the 2013 season, and you don’t hire a manager with Francona’s pedigree unless you are going to go for it when the time is right.   

With Francona running the show, the Indians have a responsibility to hit the gas, and boy, did they ever. They swung and missed on catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who used his no-trade clause to reject a deal to Cleveland. But the Indians added Miller, who, at the time he was acquired, had 77 strikeouts and only seven walks this season.

“I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but from [Indians owner] Paul Dolan to Chris [Antonetti, president of baseball operations] and his guys…not just what it does for our team statistically, wins and losses, but the message it sends is that you’re going to see guys with some extra bounce in their step,” Francona told reporters Sunday.

Not to mention that when the Indians travel to Yankee Stadium this weekend, they don’t have to face Miller.

Francona talked about how when he is out around town, some in Cleveland have been questioning him about the team’s direction.

“People will stop and say something to me and inevitably, it’s that kind of comment like…’How come we’re not with the big fish?'” Francona said. “I mean, there is no bigger. Chris and the guys just went out and got the very best guy there was, and if you don’t think other teams wanted him, you’re crazy.

“So they didn’t half-ass it; they went and got the best there is. There’s no better message.”


3. Jay Bruce’s Nightmare Over, But the Mets?

Having served as a Human Trade Rumor for the past year-and-a-half, finally, outfielder Jay Bruce learned he had a new home: the New York Mets.

A couple of things here:

One, good luck to that vaunted Mets pitching staff now when it gives up fly balls to an outfield whose glove work is, well, questionable. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson continues his long pattern of collecting corner outfielders who can hit while pretty much ignoring defense while he’s at it. Heading down the stretch, the Mets now have three corner outfielders in Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson (plus Michael Conforto) but no true center fielder. And center field is enormous in Citi Field.

That said, here’s why the Mets acquired Bruce, whom Alderson called “not an absolute perfect fit”:

The change of scenery should work wonders for Bruce. When B/R caught up with him over the weekend, the poor guy’s mind was turning somersaults on him. Last July, the Reds nearly dealt him to the Mets for pitcher Zach Wheeler. This spring, the Reds nearly dealt him to the Blue Jays. Last week, the strong rumor was a three-way deal that would have Bruce landing with the Dodgers.

When we talked, Bruce said he just wanted it done.

“I love Cincinnati,” he said. “I’ve loved my time here. But it’s clear what’s happening. It’s time for both sides to move on. I want to win.”

He now has a chance…as well as a very unique place in history:


4. Texas No Longer All Hat and No Cattle

This side of San Francisco executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean and his assistant, GM Bobby Evans, nobody works the trade deadline as expertly as Rangers GM Jon Daniels and his staff. And the Rangers did it again, adding outfielder Carlos Beltran, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress while holding on to key youngsters Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara.

Lucroy helps both behind the plate and with the bat. Beltran will be cool lemonade on a hot day to a club whose designated hitters rank 13th in the AL with a .655 OPS. And Jeffress strengthens a bullpen whose closer, Shawn Tolleson, was last seen being optioned to Triple-A Round Rock.

For Beltran, the Yankees were able to acquire Texas’ first-round pick (No. 4 overall) from last year, pitcher Dillon Tate. But overall the Rangers, who sources told B/R investigated starting pitchers from the White Sox’s Chris Sale to Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer to Philadelphia’s Vincent Velasquez and everyone in between, ultimately made Houston’s task of playing catch-up in the AL West far more difficult.

The Rangers played in the World Series in 2010 (losing to the Giants) and 2011 (losing to the Cardinals), coming within one strike of winning in ’11 before suffering heartbreak.

From here, it looks like the Rangers have every chance of getting that last strike this October.


5. Crunching Numbers With the Dodgers

OK, so Los Angeles failed to make a big move, but Reddick will help the Dodgers. And in a sabermetric-leaning front office that includes experienced and forward-thinking types such as Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, Josh Byrnes and Alex Anthopoulos, you don’t have to look far to decipher one thing about Reddick that was very attractive to them:


6. Weekly Power Rankings

1. August: Quick, who is going to clear waivers this month?

2. Twitter: The trade deadline, when even players can’t keep their noses out of their smartphones in the clubhouse.

3. Danny Duffy: Takes a no-hitter into the eighth and whiffs 16 Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night. Not exactly the kind of trade deadline day Royals fans were looking for, but it was fun while it lasted.

4. Yasiel Puig: His absence on the Dodgers’ charter flight to Denver garnered a lot more attention than any absence from the Dodgers’ lineup, and that’s the problem. Spent three seasons making himself expendable. And now, after having reportedly been told he will either be traded or demoted, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, he is.

5. Do-overs: Wait, didn’t the Marlins acquire right-hander Colin Rea from the Padres? And the Padres acquired Colin Rea from the Marlins? Huh? 


7. Explaining the Marlins-Padres Re-Trade

Speaking of the trade that didn’t quite work out as planned, Miami worked overtime to add two starting pitchers as the Marlins push to overtake Washington in the NL East, or to earn one of the two NL wild-card spots.

Then Rea felt pain in his elbow in the fourth inning Saturday, and all hell broke loose.

In a nutshell: The Marlins screamed that the Padres sent them damaged goods. Sources close to Miami noted San Diego’s turnover in medical staff this year and claim that Padres general manager A.J. Preller hired trainers who would simply tell other clubs whatever he wanted them to say.

The Padres maintain that Rea was completely healthy when they shipped him to Miami, noting that in each of his two starts leading up to the deal, he had pitched six innings, throwing 106 and 103 pitches, respectively. No problems. They also say Preller is not responsible for the new trainers.

In the end, according to B/R sources, there was a discrepancy between the teams in the medical records exchanged. Rea, a source said, had changed the anti-inflammatory medicine he takes between starts the week before he was traded. While the original medication was included in the documents the Marlins received, the new medication was not.

Consequently, when Rea was forced to leave Saturday’s game with pain, the Marlins were upset. The Padres were at fault for leaving the anti-inflammatory detail out of the chart and, as such, to end the dispute, agreed to take Rea back and send minor league pitcher Luis Castillo back to Miami.


8. Chatter

 Yes, the Chicago White Sox (for Chris Sale) and everyone else wanted young Texas slugging prospect Nomar Mazara. As one NL executive told me: “I’d give my eye teeth for Mazara.”

 San Francisco’s additions of left-handed starter Matt Moore and lefty reliever Will Smith appear to be two more perfect deadline moves by the Giants. Manager Bruce Bochy has not had as strong a bullpen this year as he did during world championship years in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and Smith helps. Moore deepens the rotation. And the two lefties combined will help against the Dodgers down the stretch, whose lineup is left-handed-heavy with Cory Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley and Joc Pederson.

 One MLB executive on the Cubs’ acquisition of Chapman, who will be a free agent this winter: “They’ll sign Chapman, and it will be something like three years at $15 million a year. They have to. They have a short window with their pitching. Jon Lester and John Lackey are older, and Jake Arrieta probably is going to be gone [via free agency]….”

 The Padres worked hard to deal catcher Derek Norris, but when Lucroy vetoed the potential trade to Cleveland, it muddied the waters enough to shoot down any potential Norris deal. Sources tell B/R the Padres were talking with the Brewers about sending Norris to Milwaukee as a stopgap catcher the rest of the summer. But in the end, the Brewers acquired Andrew Susac from the Giants in the Will Smith deal. San Diego also spoke with Houston about Norris, but the Astros weren’t ready to address their catching until this winter.

 In his first summer as a seller, Yankees GM Brian Cashman killed it, acquiring eight prospects for Chapman and Miller, plus three more for outfielder Carlos Beltran. After their trades, the Yankees now employ eight of the top 100 prospects, according to Baseball America.

 The Yankees last were sellers in 1989, when they sent Rickey Henderson to Oakland for pitchers Greg Cadaret and Eric Plunk and outfielder Luis Polonia.

• Don’t sleep on the other two relievers the Cubs acquired. Joe Smith (from the Angels) and Mike Montgomery (Mariners) don’t have the cachet of Chapman, but they make Chicago’s bullpen much better as well. Smith is a funky side-armer, and Montgomery is left-handed. The Cubs now have more weapons who come at opponents from different angles.


9. Closing Time?

So, we’ll close with this: Is Rich Hill the guy who will put the Dodgers over the top? Really? Maybe:


9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Week

Nothing more fitting than this from Johnny Cash as we cross the non-waiver trade deadline…

“Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana,

“Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana,

“Monterey, Ferriday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa

“Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa,

“Tennessee, Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake,

“Grand Lake, Devil’s Lake, Crater Lake, for Pete’s sake;

“I’ve been everywhere, man

“I’ve been everywhere, man

“‘Cross the deserts bare, man

“I’ve breathed the mountain air, man

“Of travel, I’ve had my share, man

“I’ve been everywhere.”

—Johnny Cash, “I’ve Been Everywhere”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Andrew Miller to Indians: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

All eyes were on New York Yankees closer Andrew Miller as the team teetered on the edge of contention ahead of Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, and the Bronx Bombers pulled the trigger on a deal that shipped the dynamic reliever to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and ESPN’s Buster Olney weighed in on the deal:

The Miller trade came shortly after Rosenthal announced the Indians traded for All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers. However, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Tom Haudricourt reported on Sunday that “Lucroy has exercised his no-trade clause and vetoed [the] trade.”

The Yankees signed Miller to a four-year, $36 million deal prior to the 2015 season, and his $9 million annual salary now looks like peanuts following a superb campaign.

Although the Yankees disappointed last year when the Houston Astros bounced them from the postseason in an American League wild-card showdown, Miller finished his first season in pinstripes with 36 saves and a 2.04 ERA.

Miller’s 36 saves ranked third among AL closers, and the 31-year-old’s 2.3 wins above replacement were the second-most among AL relievers with at least 20 saves, per ESPN.com. As a result, Miller captured the 2015 Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award, despite dealing with a forearm strain that forced him to miss a month.

“To be associated with anything with Mariano’s name on it, probably more than I deserve,” Miller said in October, according to NJ Advance Media’s Ryan Hatch. “Nobody has a better reputation, and especially off the field, than him. It’s something I’ll cherish.”

In 44 appearances in 2016, Miller has posted a 1.39 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 77 strikeouts and seven walks.

Trading Miller on a team-friendly deal after shipping fireballer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs is a bold move, but it represents a chance to bolster the team’s asset stockpile.

It’s also a vote of confidence in rising star Dellin Betances. The 28-year-old earned his third straight All-Star nod in 2016, and he thrived in a setup role before Chapman came aboard this season and shook up the structure of New York’s bullpen.

As the Yankees’ go-to eighth-inning arm in 2015, Betances recorded a 1.50 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 131 strikeouts while tying his career high with a 3.7 WAR. So far this season, Betances has posted a 2.50 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP with 89 strikeouts. Betances is also a more cost-effective option since he’s under team control through 2019.

Considering the Yankees’ World Series aspirations for 2016 have morphed into a pipe dream, selling high on Miller is a prudent long-term move.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise. Salary information courtesy of Spotrac.com.

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Andrew Miller Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Yankees RP

The New York Yankees are reportedly planning on keeping left-handed relief pitcher Andrew Miller as the Aug. 1 trade deadline approaches, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Continue for updates.

Yankees May Trade Aroldis Chapman Instead of Miller

Saturday, July 23

While the Bronx Bombers could trade both southpaws from the back end of their bullpen, Rosenthal noted they are “telling clubs that they are close to trading [Aroldis] Chapman” while also reporting the Miller news.

Miller has been the subject of trade rumors for much of July, and two of the top National League contenders have been on the list of pursuers.

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported on July 7 the Chicago Cubs had the reliever as one of their primary targets, although Julie DiCaro of 670 The Score indicated the National League Central leaders weren’t interested in parting ways with slugger Kyle Schwarber in a potential deal.

It makes sense the Cubs are intrigued by Miller since they ranked a middling 15th in the league in bullpen ERA entering play Saturday, per ESPN.com. While Chicago already added lefty Mike Montgomery to its bullpen via trade, he allowed a three-run homer in his team debut on Saturday during a 6-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Elsewhere, Bill Ladson of MLB.com reported on July 14 the Washington Nationals were interested in Miller. The bullpen is actually one of Washington’s strengths (tops in baseball in bullpen ERA), but Miller would give it another formidable option late in games.

Despite the rumors, the Yankees are apparently planning on keeping Miller in their bullpen. He has been in the league since 2006 and pitched for the Detroit Tigers, then-Florida Marlins, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles before joining New York for the 2015 campaign.

He appeared to have turned the corner in pinstripes and is well on his way to posting an ERA of sub-2.00 for the first time in his career in 2016:

As if the resurgence in the Bronx for Miller wasn’t enough, he will not be an unrestricted free agent until 2019, per Spotrac. That means New York could still make a postseason run in the next couple of years with Miller as a bullpen anchor even if it isn’t in prime position to compete in 2016 from fourth place in the American League East.

However, that extended team control could also give New York more leverage in a possible trade, and Miller is 31 years old. He may only have a limited window of his prime remaining, and the Yankees could theoretically receive a favorable package in any deal were they to make the move during that opening.

Alas, it seems as if New York is more interested in keeping Miller around as a critical piece of its bullpen for 2016 and beyond.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest on Evan Longoria, Andrew Miller and More

The MLB just got interesting. 

Not that it wasn’t before, but things really kick up now with the All-Star break in the rear view, a summer of trades and teams jockeying for postseason position right down the road.

While a notable team like the New York Yankees might be close to getting off on an exit along the way, it could throw them right into the land of major trades with sellers looking to dump talent and contenders looking to gobble it up.

From Carlos Gonzalez to Evan Longoria and more, there’s plenty in the way of major notes MLB fans should understand as the march toward the postseason continues.


Carlos Gonzalez Watch

The Colorado Rockies know all about getting subjected to rumor after rumor, mostly thanks to the aforementioned Gonzalez.

Six games under .500 and third in the National League West, the Rockies once again enter the fray as a team finally perhaps ready to move on from Gonzalez, who has been with the team since 2009.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal revealed (37-second mark) the Rockies have once again received calls and offers on Gonzalez, but the front office hasn’t gone out of its way to pursue anything so far.

This meshes well with strong public denials about a trade meeting earlier this month from general manager Jeff Bridich, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo.

The Rockies have made unexpected trades in the past, but Gonzalez is still just 30 years old and rolling right along with a .318/.367/.548 slash line with 19 homers and 56 RBI. For the most part, he seems on pace for another strong campaign even if the team isn’t performing as well as the front office might like.

It could change in an instant, but for now, the Rockies don’t sound like a team willing to deal a core piece.


Dodgers-Rays Trade?

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays might want to strike a deal.

This is simple enough. The Dodgers sit well ahead of the Rockies in the NL West at 52-42, hoping to keep pace with the San Francisco Giants, a team sitting 5.5 games ahead. The Rays, on the other hand, sit dead last in the American League East at 35-57, a full 18.5 games out of first place.

MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi cited sources saying the two teams are engaged in talks, referencing Los Angeles’ president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, as the catalyst thanks to his past role as Tampa Bay’s general manager.

On the topic of Longoria, Morosi wrote the following: “Based on information from sources over the past several days, I believe there’s a low probability of the Dodgers acquiring Longoria before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.”

On one hand, it’s easy to see why the Rays would keep the 30-year-old slugger around. He’s going for .289/.338/.543 this year with 21 homers and 50 RBI—an epic tear for a guy who hasn’t shown any signs of slowing.

On the other hand, as Morosi noted, no team would scoff at Longoria‘s contract, and Tampa Bay getting out of the biggest contract in franchise history could turn out to be a smart decision in the long run.

Also of note is the fact Longoria‘s value may never be higher. Given trading for players with long deals doesn’t happen often, Tampa Bay might decide to throw in the proverbial towel and strike a deal now. It’ll hurt the team and fans to lose one of MLB’s most recognizable faces, but so it goes.

The Dodgers can only hope the Rays see the logic.


Cleveland Wants Andrew Miller?

It’s easy to name the Cleveland Indians’ biggest weakness this year because there’s only one: a left-handed reliever. 

The Indians sit on a 54-38 mark in the AL Central and have a mind to pluck talent from the middling, .500 Yankees. An odd role reversal, but it is what it is, as Rosenthal pointed out:

This is far from the first time Andrew Miller has come up in trade rumors, with Bill Ladson of MLB.com also recently noting the Washington Nationals have an interest in his services, as well as Aroldis Chapman’s. Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball said the Chicago Cubs do as well.

What’s the hype with Miller? At 31 years old, he’s putting up one of the best years of his career, sitting on a 1.31 ERA with seven saves over 41.1 innings pitched. According to Spotrac, he’s also only boasting a base salary of $9 million over two more years after the current campaign.

Odds are the Yankees don’t cough up such a talent unless a trade offer blows the front office out of the water, meaning the Indians will have to come with a major offering.

It’s up to the Indians to make the call. The current composition of the roster has the team reaping the benefits of smart moves over the years. Messing with it and perhaps dishing a key part to bring Miller on board could hurt the winning equation.

Then again, pitching wins titles. If it comes to a bidding war for Miller’s services at the deadline, expect the Indians to remain right in the thick of it.


All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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Andrew Miller Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Yankees Pitcher

The San Francisco Giants have internally discussed acquiring New York Yankees reliever Andrew Miller.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported the news. 

Continue for updates.

Giants May Need to Deal Top Prospect

Saturday, June 4

In order to trade for Miller, the Giants could have to part with top pitching prospect Tyler Beede, according to Rosenthal.

Beede, 23, was the team’s first-round pick in 2014 out of Vanderbilt. With Double-A Richmond this season, Beede is 3-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 10 starts.

Miller has been the subject of trade rumors throughout the early part of this season. He is part of an explosive bullpen that features Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, but USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale speculated on May 27 that if the Yankees are not contending by the Aug. 1 trade deadline, Miller may be gone.

New York general manager Brian Cashman acknowledged this, per Nightengale.

“If we’re in there, we’ll be trying to add,” Cashman said on May 26. “If we’re not good enough, then, it will be the opposite.

“[Betances, Chapman and Miller] are valuable, that’s why we have them.

The Yankees are 25-29 and fourth in the American League East. They are also second-to-last in the AL with 203 runs scored. So while New York has a powerful bullpen, the team is not scoring enough runs to utilize it.

Miller would be a huge addition to the Giants bullpen. 

San Francisco is atop the National League West at 35-22 and sixth in the NL in runs scored. It is also fifth in team ERA. 

The team does not have an elite lineup or pitching staff, so adding Miller would help secure leads that could be given away from poor pitching or are insurmountable from an average offense.

Miller is in the second year of a four-year, $36 million deal, which is a relatively friendly contract for a top-notch reliever who can boost a World Series contender.

The Yankees need starting pitching, and the Giants need an anchor in the bullpen, so this trade would make a lot of sense for both sides.


Minor league statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comAll other statistics are courtesy of ESPN.comContract information courtesy of Spotrac.com.

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