5 Dec 2014
Busy day for the Yankees as they have just added Andrew Miller to the bullpen on a four-year/$36 million deal. This could be one of the better free agent signings the Yankees have made, it just depends on what they do with him.
I don’t think anyone will argue that Miller was one of the best relievers in the league last year. He has filthy stuff and even though he is a lefty, he didn’t suffer against righty hitters, posting a slightly lower OPS against them. You can read an interesting breakdown of his career and trajectory here. (quick take- very promising)
But here’s where things can go really well for the Yankees, or just well. They can do the traditional thing and slot Miller in as the “8th inning guy” or even the closer. That would be fine. But if they are smart, they will take Miller and Betances and realize they have two amazing weapons to deploy in close games.
The whole idea of a closer has gotten out of whack. Most closers don’t stay closers for very long. (For example look at the Top-10 save lists from year to year. Lots of changes.) Saves are a very overrated statistic as you get one if you come in and pitch an inning with a lead of no more than 3 runs, or you come in in a 5-0 game, but the bases are loaded. Plenty of mediocre pitchers can come into a game and pitch an inning of relief without surrendering three runs. Yet, managers have become beholden to the closer and saving that pitcher for the 9th. The Yankees have a chance to change that.
Instead of using Miller in the 9th as the closer. How about using him in the game when it makes sense? Same thing with Betances. The Yanekes don’t have to designate a closer. If it’s a 3-2 Yankee lead in the sixth and the pitcher is floundering, bring in Miller or Betances. If it’s the ninth, do the same. There are situations where the game hangs in the balance and those are the ones where you want to use your best reliever(s).
The Yankees probably won’t do that, but even if they don’t, this is a good move. Yes, the money is crazy, but this is the world we live in. I think from an incremental standpoint, this move makes financial sense. Miller can influence around 70 games next year as one of the best relievers in the game. A starting pitcher is capped at around 32, and top level starters cost almost three times this. Yes, a starter will pitch more innings, but again it is about the leverage of those innings. The Yankees have two great weapons to deploy in those high-leverage situations.