When a good team has to decide between which of their three backup infielders to cut, it’s normally a good situation to be in. It’s usually a decision between three guys with different skillsets, or a different handedness that might be more of a need in a particular lineup. At the very least, good teams usually have a couple adequate backups to choose from.
That’s not the case with the decision the Indians made to designated Brad Miller for assignment, while also leaving Eric Stamets and Max Moroff on the roster.
Instead of keeping one of the few effective hitters they’ve had in the first handful of games, the Indians kept two players who — to this point — have done nothing offensively or defensively to justify them being on a major league roster.
The move is weird, and Miller’s comments after the designation do not exactly reflect well on the Indians.
It’s a tough trend. They acknowledge that it wasn’t fair. But I’m just a player. I go out there and play my hardest and play for the guys next to me. Obviously, they don’t want the best guys up here. So I’m just trying to take it somewhere else and see what we’ve got.
Unless something is out of context here, “they don’t want the best guys up here” sounds like a direct shot across the bow at the Indians front office being cheap and not willing to pay his salary. And with Jason Kipnis’ return likely coming tomorrow and Francisco Lindor not far off, the Indians essentially had to decide which two backup infielders were going to stick around for the long haul. They chose the cheaper option.
As Paul Hoynes details in the post above, Miller’s $1 million contract would be guaranteed if he stayed on the roster for 45 days. As it is, they owe him roughly $105,000 for the time he’s played. If another team claims him, they’ll be on the hook for the rest. If he goes unclaimed and ends up in the minors, he gets $120,000 more from the Indians — but Miller has the option of declining the assignment outright and becoming a free agent. Based on his comments, that doesn’t sound out of the question whatsoever.
Miller’s frustration seem to stem further than the perceived corner cutting going on, too. The guy just liked playing for Francona, and playing for the Indians.
I’m a player. I really enjoyed playing for Tito (Terry Francona). That’s why I’m frustrated. I want to be here. I like this group. It’s a good team and I was hoping I’d be a part of it, but they have other plans.
So to have a manager and team that he liked playing for — and that he was pretty effective for — drop him before two underperforming teammates understandably sucks.
It’s also hard to stomach as someone who has watched this offense flounder day in and day out, while Miller is one of the only good spots in the lineup on occasion. He has had his fair share of clunkers, including five straight games without a hit, but he’s one of a select few Indians actually doing anything at the plate this season. The question becomes: Does it matter?
Keep in mind, this is a move to decide the absolute last position player on the roster. Two weeks down the line, when Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis are both back in the lineup, no one will care if it’s Eric Stamets, Max Moroff, or Brad Miller sitting on the bench for another 140 games. Much less so when they (hopefully) make trades at the deadline. The gap between any major league and Eric Stamets is massive, but the one between Brad Miller and Max Moroff isn’t that huge. And Hanley Ramirez’s ability to be right-handed (a skill he’s honed since birth) is enough to give him the edge over Miller.
I wrote when the Indians signed him that he had the potential to hit for power if he could manage to make contact again, to the point where he might contend with Jason Kipnis for the starting second baseman job. He’s done that to an extent so far, with his 73.4 percent contact rate and 11.1 swinging strike percentage. There was always fringe-y hope that Miller could turn into an average hitter, but we’re still talking about a guy who is going to be on the bench and maybe almost sort of be an average bat.
Miller absolutely has every right to be upset, but what the Indians did isn’t indefensible. If the Indians made this move three days ago before Miller got hot for a series, it probably wouldn’t be worthy of a headline.
If anything, I’m upset at the circumstances that led to the Indians have to decide between Moroff, Stamets, and Miller. I’m upset that Yu Chang never got a chance while Francisco Lindor sat injured. But the Indians choosing to cut a guy probably won’t be here in a week anyway isn’t worth the heartache.