At one point, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Andrew Miller was a can’t-miss prospect. Pitching three years at the University of North Carolina, he set the Tar Heels’ career strikeout record and won the Roger Clemens Award as the nation’s top pitcher in 2006. It led to the Detroit Tigers taking him with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft.
Miller didn’t pan out as a starter after being rushed up to the big leagues and going 5-5 with a 5.63 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in 13 starts with the Tigers in 2007 before being traded to the Florida Marlins — the team he grew up rooting for — in the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Motor City. He struggled even more in Miami, going 10-20 with a 5.89 ERA in 58 appearances (41 starts). His command was out of whack, averaging more than five walks per nine innings.
With Miller’s value as low as it could be for a former top-ten pick in the draft, then-general manager Theo Epstein took a chance on the 6-foot-7 lefty prior to the 2011 season. And in Boston, he’s found his role as a late-inning reliever and a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.
Following a 2011 season that was more of the same — struggling as a starting pitcher — Miller emerged as one of the American League’s top left-handed relievers. Going back to the start of the 2012 season, the 29-year-old has made 139 appearances — all in relief — allowing 35 earned runs on 78 hits and 50 walks while striking out 165 over 112.1 innings. Those numbers amount to a 2.80 ERA and 1.139 WHIP, a far cry from the aggregate 5.79 ERA and 1.75 WHIP he had in parts of six prior seasons.
Miller has found his role, learned how to use his stuff — which has always been dazzling — and most of all learned how to command his stuff.
The 2014 season has been the coronation of the development of Miller. Pitching with a pay day on the horizon and coming off a foot injury that cut his 2013 season short, Miller has been one of the top reliever in the AL. Making 49 appearances, he’s allowed just 11 earned runs with 66 strikeouts to 13 walks in 41.1 innings. He has an ERA of 2.40 and his WHIP is 0.919.
Much like teammate Jon Lester, Miller has a nice payday on the horizon. And like Lester, he too will receive a contract the Red Sox aren’t willing to give. It will be a contract similar to what Brandon League (four years, $27.5 million) and Jonathan Broxton (three years, $21 million) have received in recent years. If a team decides to use Miller in a closing role, you can put the term up to four or five years at $10-15 million annually.
Therefore, it only makes sense for the Red Sox to trade away the reliever. A pitcher several teams have made inquiries on, Boston can get very good value in return. On the other end, Miller can provide a contender with a big arm.
It’s a situation that echoes the sentiment with Lester. The money and term he will receive isn’t money and term the Sox are willing to give to one player. He’s the type of pitcher who can put a team over the top, be it as a setup man or a closer, so why not get what you can for him?
If Miller isn’t the next one to pack his bags, he won’t be far behind whoever goes before him.