After watching Corey Kluber get $11 million on a one-year deal from the Yankees, you had to immediately adjust your expectations when it came to what kind of pitchers we might see come to Chicago this offseason.
On Sunday, the Cubs inked former Cardinals first-rounder Shelby Miller to a non-guaranteed deal worth $875,000 should he make the big league team out of camp with an additional $600,000 in incentives. Calling this a buy-low move is generous, to say the least.
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Miller, still only 30 years of age, did not pitch during the shortened 2020 campaign and has amassed a mere 82 innings at the big league level since 2018. This is the epitome of a hope and a dream for the Cubs’ part – as the right-hander missed most of both 2017 and 2018 as he worked back from Tommy John surgery.
In 2019, he made 19 appearances, including eight starts, for the Texas Rangers. The results were, shall we say, not great.
He put up an 8.59 ERA, 6.40 FIP and 1.977 WHIP – a number inflated by a career-worst 5.9 BB/9. While he once ranked as one of the most highly-regarded pitching prospects in the game, that’s definitely no longer the case.
Miller has failed to be that guy, really, since 2015 with Atlanta, when he lost a league-leading 17 games, but was named an All-Star and worked to a 3.02 ERA in 205 1/3 innings of work. Since that point, he’s struggled to a 6.89 ERA across 183 innings of work.
The Cubs have nothing to lose by giving the veteran a look in camp next month. They desperately lack any substantive depth when it comes to arms, and while one might debate whether or not Miller constitutes ‘substantive depth’ – he’s a body, he’s cheap and – as Chicago hopes – just maybe he can come back and recapture some of his early-career magic.
This certainly won’t be the last move the team makes geared toward the pitching staff. But, like I said, you need to have realistic expectations as to what these moves will look like. We’re not talking about former Cy Young winners or even guys who have been up-and-down over the last couple of years. Chicago will be looking at guys whose shine has faded and can be had on the cheap.
That’s the reality we’re looking at as Cubs fans right now. None of us like it, but we can always hope a few of these guys pan out and the front office can capitalize at the trade deadline to build for the future.