The Mariners won’t see utility man Brad Miller in their upcoming series with Tampa. The former Mariner was DFA’d by the Rays Thursday morning. Is a reunion with Miller a possibility for the M’s?
The answer is… maybe. Does it make sense? Maybe not.
One of the biggest themes of Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto’s Mariners regime has been playing it safe. Whether it be how they draft or acquire Major League talent or the way they play on the field and manage a game, the Mariners usually prefer to take the safest route there.
Brad Miller is not safe. There’s a reason he’s one of the first of many players that Jerry Dipoto has traded since 2015.
It’s mainly his defense. Miller has played everywhere in the field in his career, other than pitcher and catcher, and has been a liability at every position. In 2018, the Rays stuck him at first for the majority of games. He had three errors.
FanGraphs currently has him as a -4.1 defensive player. When acquiring a utility player, you’re valuing their defense over their offense. Why get a guy to play every position when he can’t play any of them well?
When getting a player like Miller, it’s for his bat. After slumping in 2017, Miller is hitting a 107 wRC+ clip.
The power numbers have slipped, though. In his first season with Tampa in 2016, Miller hit 30 home runs in 152 games. Since then, he’s hit just 14 in 158 games over the span of 2017 and the first two months of 2018.
Alas, he still adds a solid left-handed presence to a roster with only four lefties and one switch-hitter. The latter would likely be the player Miller replaces in a hypothetical acquisition: Andrew Romine.
Ask most Mariners fans who they would rather have in this case; Miller or Romine? You’d find that nearly all of them would quickly say Miller without a doubt. I don’t see it that black and white.
Miller and Romine are on the complete opposite sides of the spectrum from one another. Miller brings you a nice bat but is atrocious defensively. Romine gives you a nice glove and flexibility in the field but is almost an automatic out at the plate.
Replacing Romine with Miller would immediately give you an uptick in wRC+ from the utility spot by 92 points. However, every night you run the risk of falling victim to one of Miller’s infamous errant throws to first.
Remember what I said earlier? The ability you focus on the most with a utility man is their glove.
Romine has the glove. Say what you want about Romine and his 15 wRC+, he’s been able to fill in at multiple spots and not be a liability. He’s also been a solid pinch-runner and helped the Mariners score runs late in games.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Romine should be on this team past the July 31st trade deadline. There are better utility players who should be available that will give you similar defense and actually be able to hit the ball.
You don’t have to settle for Miller, but acquiring him also wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Perhaps the biggest positive of reacquiring Miller would be to give Healy an off-day or two a week. Healy is slumping pretty hard right now and that could be due to fatigue from playing virtually every day.
With Healy still learning how to play the first base position, you don’t sacrifice too much by putting Miller there. In fact, Healy has the same exact defensive grade (-4.1) as Miller. Miller has a 115 wRC+ against RHP. Healy has a 111 wRC+. A platoon might make sense.
Offensively, Miller would give you a left-handed bat with power and speed, creating some interesting matchup possibilities.
Usually, I don’t like to speculate about every single player that gets DFA’d or released and link them to the Mariners. I find it very annoying when casual Mariners do that. I’m writing this article because it actually feels very plausible. Even Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times has heard that the Mariners were interested in Miller, perhaps during the Colome and Span talks.
As Divish mentioned, the Mariners may only make a play of Miller if he clears waivers and is released. With limited money to spend in July, assuming roughly half of Miller’s $4.5 million owed this year is not something that’s ideal for the M’s.
This is definitely a “wait and see” situation. It’s something to keep an eye on for the next few days.