The St. Louis Cardinals surprised many on Wednesday when they signed 30-year-old journeyman infielder Brad Miller to a one year contract. The signing created a discussion among Cardinal Bloggers about the impact Miller would have on the 2020 bench.
Just when it seemed their roster was set for 2020, the St. Louis Cardinals front office pulled a fast one by signing Brad Miller to a one year $2 million contract. With all four starting jobs in the infield spoken for, the Miller signing appears to be a move to strengthen the bench.
Miller comes to the Cardinals from Philadelphia where, in 2019, he hit a slash line of .263/.331/.610 with 12 homers and 21 RBIs in 66 games. The left-handed bat also had an OPS+ of 135 during his stint with the Phillies.
The former 2011 second-round pick had stops in Seattle, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and New York before landing in Philadelphia in June 2019. He has a seven-year career slash line of .241/.314/.419 with an OPS+ of 102.
Miller was primarily a starter or in a super-utility role while in Seattle and Tampa. His most productive year was with the Rays in 2016, when he hit a slash line of .243/.304/.482 with 30 homers and 81 RBIs in 152 games.
Defensively, Miller has the most experience at short and second base during his career but also has played first, third, and all three outfield positions. In St. Louis, it is expected he will be in a utility infield role and a left-handed bat off the bench.
Which brings the question, who on the current roster will be most affected by Miller’s presence? It seemed initially to me, it would be Edmundo Sosa and Yairo Munoz. But when I posed this question to some Cardinal Bloggers in this piece, I also heard the name of Tommy Edman.
Surprised? Well, I was too. But let’s hear their opinions on the Brad Miller signing and how it impacts the 2020 bench, then you can judge for yourself.
The Bloggers’ Take on the Miller signing
I recently participated in Ryan Hetzer’s ‘Long Gone’ Podcast prior to the Miller signing, and one of the topics we discussed was the 2020 bench. Ryan (@rdeschain19 on Twitter) and I discussed how right-handed oriented the bench was going to lean. We were both intrigued by left-handed bat Justin Williams being on the 40-man roster.
After Miller signed, I reached out to Ryan and asked his opinion on the signing. Ryan said it made a lot of sense, especially when you consider the earlier statements made by the front office about being intrigued by left-handed bench pieces.
Further, he wondered how this would affect Tommy Edman. Ryan was expecting him to be moved around the diamond, playing 5-6 days a week, at 4-5 different positions. “I think that’s how he maximizes his value to the Cardinals.” Ryan added, “So it will be interesting to see if Miller’s presence affects this.”
Next, I reached out to Daniel Shoptaw (@C70) of the Cards Conclave site and one of the hosts of Meet Me At Musial podcast (@MeetMeAtMusial). Daniel (or C70 as most of us know him by), thought Miller looked like a big plus for the Cardinals.
Daniel told me, “Miller seems to be a fairly smart signing. From what I understand, the Cards would prefer Munoz to get more regular at-bats, which means Memphis. This also allows Sosa to be sent down if he has a weak spring, if others have better, or he struggles after the season starts.”
Daniel also added, “I also think this move was made because the front office realized DeJong was going to need more rest this year. He gives a solid option off the bench in late innings as well.”
I also reached out to Beth Chapman (@elichap822), who blogs at N The Zone Network. I asked her thoughts on the Miller signing and Beth believes Munoz will be his biggest competition as a bench option.
As a left-handed hitter (MIller), Beth said, “they may have equal time should the Cardinals go that deep on the bench.” However, Beth believes whoever has the best spring will be the ‘chosen one’ behind either Edman or Carpenter. Still, she gives Munoz a slight edge in the competition due to Miller trying to adapt to a new team.
Some Takes from Redbird Rants
Some of my colleagues here at Redbird Rants shared their thoughts with me on the Brad Miller signing as well.
First, our Site Expert, Matt Graves (@Matty_Ice99), said, “I really like the signing, I think there’s no downside at all.” Matt added, “Miller is better than Munoz and Sosa and is basically a left-handed Jedd Gyorko at a quarter of the salary.”
Kyle Jasper (@kylejasper46) took the impact on Tommy Edman angle. He stated, “I think the Brad Miller move puts a lot of pressure on Tommy Edman to produce. Brad Miller is essentially what Tommy Edman is, but with more experience.” Kyle added, “They both can play around the diamond and are comfortable with anywhere you put them. If Edman doesn’t produce in a way like he did last year, they might have Miller move around the diamond and play every day, but in different spots, especially if Miller can beat right-handed pitching like he did last year.”
Emmett McAuliffe (@McLff) said there is a growing consensus that Munoz was rushed and, still only 24, could benefit from a full season at AAA. Josh Magee (@JMageeSports), added ” we’ve been looking for a solid left-handed bench bat for a while(like how Drew Robinson didn’t work out), so I love it. And he’s insanely good against RHP.”
My Take on the new Cardinal
When I first heard about the Brad Miller signing, my initial reaction was like many others, ‘what the…?’ and thought the move was a head-scratcher. But the more I thought about it, the more my thinking evolved and it started to make sense.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals Rumors: 3 pros and cons of signing Carlos Rodon
- Cardinals: Here is Willson Contreras’ first message for St. Louis fans
- How do the St. Louis Cardinals stack up with Willson Contreras?
- Cardinals: The insane asking price the Athletics had for Sean Murphy
- St. Louis Cardinals: Ask me anything with Josh Jacobs – 12/8
If Tommy Edman has the dreaded sophomore slump in 2020 (remember Harrison Bader?), who on the bench would pick up his mantle from 2019? By his reduced playing time in 2019, I don’t think Mike Shildt and staff have confidence in Yairo Munoz. Additionally, Edmondo Sosa, while considered to have a solid defensive hand, his offense is unproven.
Brad Miller brings a solid proven left-handed bat to St. Louis. His time in Philadelphia showed he can do it off the bench, which is the insurance the Cardinals need. He will be the backup plan if Tommy Edman should falter and his presence could push the young super-utility player a little more.
Who Miller impacts immediately is Yairo Munoz, and this is because he is essentially a left-handed Munoz, but with more experience and proven consistency.
Where Brad Miller falls short is his defense, it’s not exactly stellar. Looking at his defensive metrics at Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant, he is a slight improvement over Munoz at second and short, but not at third.
This is where Edmondo Sosa could still be a value to the Cardinals in late innings, and play a valuable role in 2020. Additionally, Miller has had some injury issues in recent years, and has not played in more than 79 games since 2017.
Nevertheless, this signing is a low risk and potentially high reward deal for the Cardinals. Miller’s one year, $2 million contract doesn’t hamstring the team at all, and will not prevent it from making a high-end trade at the deadline in July.
If he stays healthy, Brad Miller will only help the St. Louis Cardinals in 2020. If Edman and Matt Carpenter slump, Miller will be good insurance.