Boston Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington emerged from the Major League Baseball general manager’s meetings Wednesday with a lot of rumors, but no results. While one of the most persistent rumors involves former Boston left ace Jon Lester, now another southpaw fireballer has emerged as free agent target for Cherington.
And this pitcher, like Lester, was traded away by Boston at the July 31 trade deadline — along with six other Red Sox players.
Andrew Miller was picked up by the Red Sox in the 2010-2011 offseason, as a “project,” whose career was nearly ended by injuries after the Detroit Tigers made the lanky, 6’7″ lefty the Number Six pick in the nation in the 2006 draft.
But in 2007, the Tigers packaged Miller with five other prospects and dealt him to the Florida Marlins in exchange for future Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. While in Florida, Miller suffered an oblique muscle injury and never fully got back on track. The Red Sox made a minor trade to acquire him, not really sure how he’d recover.
“That was one that turned out to be a best-case scenario, certainly. I’d be lying if I said we knew he’d be one of the most dominant relievers in the game,” Theo Epstein, Red Sox general manager at that time, said recently. “We loved the arm. We saw it as a great buy-low opportunity.”
Miller took a few years and fought through more injuries, but by 2014 he was, indeed, “one of the most dominant relievers in the game,” averaging almost 15 strikeouts per nine innings in a middle relief slot.
But with the 2013 World Series champion Red Sox floundering in a disastrous follow-up season — and the Baltimore Orioles leading the American League East and headed toward the 2014 playoffs — Cherington saw an opportunity to send Miller to Baltimore and get back the Orioles’ top pitching prospect, 21-year-old Venezuelan Eduardo Rodriguez.
Now Miller is a free agent and Cherington is contemplating how to bring him back to the Red Sox.
“He’s been one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball for the last couple of years. We would have interest,” Cherington told Boston radio station WEEI this week. “We’ve got a lot of respect for him, and he performed really well for us.”
But would the Red Sox pay Miller’s asking price? Reportedly, the 29-year-old — who turns 30 on May 25 — wants a four-year contract, and will make an exception to that stipulation only if the money involved is “astounding.”
The Red Sox have historically been reluctant to offer longer-term deals to pitchers over 30, and with Miller’s injury history, he will likely be seen as an even greater risk than other hurlers in his age group.
At the same time, the Red Sox will have stiff competition on the Miller market. The pitcher’s agents have already held discussions with the Chicago White Sox, who may be willing to meet Miller’s requirement of a four-year deal worth about $40 million.
Other rumors say that Miller wants to convert from set-up man to closer, and with Koji Uehara now resigned to the Red Sox for another two years, the Boston closer’s job appears filled.