The top free-agent relief option is off the board, as the Yankees have added Andrew Miller on a four-year, $36 million deal.
Andrew Miller has landed the first major pitching contract of this offseason, signing a four-year, $36 million contract with the Yankees. The lefthanded Miller, who was among the most dominant relief pitchers this past season, will combine with Dellin Betances to give the Yankees arguably the most impressive righty-lefty relief combination in baseball. Meanwhile, Miller's signing strongly suggests that the Yankees will let 2014 closer David Robertson sign elsewhere.
As I wrote on Tuesday, favoring Miller over Robertson was the right choice, not only for New York but also for any team interested in spending money on high-leverage relief this offseason. Miller and Robertson will both turn 30 early in the 2015 season and have put up remarkably similar numbers over the last three seasons, which were Miller's only seasons as a pure reliever.
Miller, however, has had a less dramatic platoon split over the last two years than the righthanded Robertson's reverse split. Miller was also less expensive in terms of dollars due to his lack of closing experience (he has just one career save). And while the Yankees didn't have to worry about the draft pick attached to Robertson's price, by signing Miller and letting Robertson sign elsewhere, they could actually gain a draft pick.
The big question now is who will close games for the Yankees. Per the above, Miller is clearly qualified for the job and is being paid closer money. In fact, his contract is the largest for a reliever with no meaningful closer experience in major league history. However, Betances, who also has just one career save, was nearly as good as Miller last season over 27 2/3 more innings and is three years younger.
There's no wrong answer there, and early indications are that the Yankees will put off making a decision until spring training. In an interview on WFAN immediately after the news of Miller's signing broke, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that closing was not discussed in his negotiations with Miller. "I'm not signing him to be our closer," Cashman said. "I'm signing him to be a weapon in our 'pen."
It's also possible that the Yankees could still re-sign Robertson, creating a Big Three to rival the Royals' trio. Another possibility that has been floated is that the Yankees, armed with the extra draft pick gained by letting Robertson having signed elsewhere, might pursue another top free agent with draft-pick compensation attached to his price, such as Max Scherzer. The Yankees did thin out their rotation a bit Friday morning by trading righty Shane Greene to the Tigers in a three-way deal that brought shortstop Didi Gregorius to New York to serve as Derek Jeter's replacement.
Even before that trade, however, the Yankees were in clear need of rotation reinforcements given the uncertain health of CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda, the free agency of Hiroki Kuroda, and the fact that Ivan Nova is coming off late-April Tommy John surgery. Cashman did good work on Friday in adding Gregorius and Miller, but while the Yankees are a better team now than they were Friday morning, he still has work to do.