Yanks strike deal with Miller, acquire Gregorius
NEW YORK (AP) The Yankees made their first big moves to reshape for 2015, acquiring a shortstop to replace Derek Jeter and a relief pitcher who could take over from David Robertson as closer.
As part of a three-team trade, the Yankees obtained shortstop Didi Gregorius from Arizona and dealt right-hander Shane Greene to Detroit. A few hours later, they agreed to a $36 million, four-year contract with reliever Andrew Miller.
New York is uncertain whether it will re-sign Robertson, who had 39 saves in his first season after replacing retired great Mariano Rivera as closer. A free agent, Robertson is expected to command a four-year deal at a much bigger price than Miller.
''I can't predict yet as his free agency continues where he's going to land,'' Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. ''I certainly would not allude to the level of our participation. We've been in touch with his agency, and I'll just leave it at that.''
A 29-year-old left-hander who is an imposing 6-foot-7, Miller held opponents to a .153 batting average this year while going 5-5 with a 2.02 ERA for Boston and Baltimore. He averaged 14.87 strikeouts per nine innings, second in the major leagues behind Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman (17.67) among pitchers who faced at least 50 batters.
Cashman said Miller turned down a $40 million, four-year offer from a team he didn't specify. He called Miller ''a high-end weapon to go along with what we already had and what we're collecting'' and said the Yankees didn't commit to using him as closer.
''It's protecting us. It gives us some diversification there,'' Cashman said. ''I am not opposed to obviously continuing to pursue someone that has obviously the known closing abilities versus the maybe-can-do-that.''
After allowing a .282 opponents' batting average from 2006-12, Miller simplified his mechanics and limited his pitches to mainly fastballs and sliders by pretty much dropping his sinker and changeup. He held hitters to a .175 average the last two years.
''He's now found a niche where he has excelled extremely well. Clearly we took notice as well as the rest of the game,'' Cashman said.
Miller lives in Tampa, Florida, where the Yankees hold spring training. He will make $9 million annually and joins a bullpen that includes hard-throwing right-hander Dellin Betances, who finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting. New York's relievers also include Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren - unless they get shifted to the rotation.
Gregorius, a 24-year-old left-handed hitter who was born in Amsterdam and raised in Curacao, becomes the favorite to take over at shortstop following Jeter's retirement. Gregorius hit his first big league homer at Yankee Stadium in April 2013 in his first at-bat with the Diamondbacks but lost the starting shortstop job to Chris Owings during spring training this year and was sent to the minors.
He was recalled when Cliff Pennington tore a thumb ligament and became the regular shortstop when Owings injured a shoulder. Gregorius batted .226 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 80 games this year but hit .137 (7 for 51) against left-handers.
''At the very least we expect him to be utilized in probably a platoon with Brendan Ryan until he separates himself,'' Cashman said. ''So high-end projections. We think there is more in the tank there as he continues to develop.''
Cashman maintained Gregorius shouldn't worry about taking over from one of the Yankees' greatest players, saying ''no one will replace Derek Jeter'' and calling the ex-captain ''one in a billion.''
The 26-year-old Greene was 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 14 starts and one relief appearance during his first big league season. New York, Detroit and Arizona also made a three-team trade in December 2009 that involved Max Scherzer, Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson and others.
''I was not shopping him,'' Cashman said. ''I had no interest in trading him, but in the end, it took him to get a vitally important position taken care of on the field.''