Perhaps the biggest name to watch for the Indians this offseason is Andrew Miller, as the final year of his contract is coming to an end.
Andrew Miller returned to the disabled list for the third time this season on Wednesday, this time with a shoulder impingement in his throwing arm. The timetable for his return to action is unknown to the Cleveland Indians at the moment, but outside the uncertainty lies this one unmistakable truth: 2018 has been an extremely frustrating year for the flame-throwing lefty.
His absence at this stage of the season begs a few questions, not the least of which is: Should the Indians race the clock for another bullpen arm before Friday’s waiver deadline?
It stands to reason that they would if there is any doubt whatsoever that Miller will be able to return to full strength for October. With Cody Allen battling through an entirely different set of tough circumstances, the Tribe would be well served to bolster the bullpen in front of Brad Hand.
Another question raised is whether or not Miller’s rough go in 2018 makes it more likely that the Indians can retain him after the season ends.
With sights set on a World Series run, it’s pretty difficult to think about anything that might transpire past the first few days of November. But it’s important nonetheless to evaluate where Miller’s future with the Tribe stands.
Without writing off Miller’s 2018 campaign as a wash (after all, he still could return), imagine for a moment that he never fully gets it back together by the end of the year. The deciding factor in his future value, then, comes down to this: Does Miller’s long track record of being a lights-out reliever hold more weight than his injury-plagued 2018 season?
That’s up to the 30 big league front offices to decide, and the opinions of each will differ. The Indians, however, get the first crack at letting theirs be known. The Tribe can extend Miller a qualifying offer, thus allowing him to make a decision on whether to take the money or bet on himself following a rough year. Should Miller reject the hypothetical offer, things may get interesting.
We aren’t very far removed from a winter in which Greg Holland struggled to find a job after years of being regarded as one of the better closers in the game. Holland wound up signing a deal with the Cardinals after the season had already started, and struggled so mightily that he was released just under a month ago.
Holland also wasn’t dealing with any health concerns, pitched effectively at Coors Field of all places, and is slightly younger than Miller. He is just one example of many players forced to trudge through the free agency swamp in 2017.
Only time will tell if the 2018 offseason produces another across-the-board stalemate, but the foul stench left behind by last year’s debacle may linger just long enough to cause some players to go the safe route and take what’s in front of them.
Of course, even if Miller would decline a qualifying offer, the Indians could still try to retain him on a short-term deal. Perhaps something with a player option after year one would do the trick, giving him the chance to reenter free agency if he bounces back in 2019.
However it pans out, the Indians certainly have a better shot at keeping him around than it appeared they would at the start of the season.
Setting aside the business aspect of it all, it’s hard to come to grips with the idea that Cleveland’s postseason hero of two years ago may never return to that version of himself in an Indians uniform. If he is in fact unable to accomplish that task in 2018, it would be nice to see him get another chance next year.