Re-signing Brad Miller probably isn’t at the top of Dave Dombrowski’s to-do list. It probably isn’t at the top of most fans’ wish lists either. It’s not the exciting move we’re all desperate to see when the lockout finally ends.
But it would certainly be a move worth making.
He’s Bamboo Brad. He’s Bryce Harper’s hype man. He’s the guy who had a three-homer game and a walk-off grand slam in the same month last season.
Brad Miller has been a valuable member of this team, in the clubhouse and on the field, and bringing him back in 2022 would make the Phillies better.
A walk-off GRAND SLAM?— Cut4 (@Cut4) August 2, 2021
Brad Miller absolutely got the BatCast™ treatment. pic.twitter.com/Ca7uArSiz7
Brad Miller struggles to hit left-handed pitching. I’ve talked about that quite a bit on this here blog. Against right-handed pitching, on the other hand, he’s really quite good. I’ve written about that before too. But here’s a brand new statistical tidbit for you.
Since 2019, Brad Miller’s 130 wRC+ against RHP ranks second on the Phillies (min. 200 PA). In fact, since 2008 his 130 wRC+ against RHP ranks second on the team. Over the past twenty years, Miller ranks fifth (again, min. 200 PA) behind only Jim Thome (153 wRC+), Bryce Harper (151 wRC+), Bobby Abreu (148 wRC+), and Ryan Howard (138 wRC+). Brad Miller obviously has much less playing time with the Phillies (411 PA vs. RHP) than those other four, but it still goes to show just how valuable his bat can be. While his ineptitude against southpaws and his lack of a true position prevents Miller from being a full-time starter, he is far more than just your typical bench bat.
That being said, he is exactly the kind of bench bat the Phillies need. The current bench bat options on the 40-man roster include Matt Vierling, Nick Maton, Luke Williams, Mickey Moniak, and Adam Haseley. That’s plenty of talented young players with defensive versatility, but what that group is missing is a reliable veteran bat like Miller.
So Brad Miller is a talented player who fills an areas of need for the Phillies. He seems to be a great clubhouse guy and he has endeared himself to the fans over his two seasons in Philadelphia. He may not be the most exciting or the most impactful player the Phillies could sign, but no one on the free agent market is a better fit for the Phillies than Miller.
The only thing left to consider is the cost.
If you’re a regular reader of mine, you might have heard this line before: supposing that the Phillies insist on staying under the competitive balance tax threshold, they have about $30 MM left to spend (presuming the threshold remains the same under the new CBA). The Phillies already have enough guys on their 40-man roster to fill out the bench, and so signing Brad Miller might be a “luxury” that Dave Dombrowski can’t afford if he’s hoping to also make serious improvements in left field, center field, and the bullpen.
There’s no easy way to estimate Brad Miller’s salary in 2022, since players like Miller don’t end up on free agent prediction pieces from sources like MLB Trade Rumors, FanGraphs, or The Athletic. With no expert opinions to fall back on, I’ll have to estimate this one myself.
Since Brad Miller first hit free agency after the 2018 season, he has signed progressively bigger and bigger contracts (relatively speaking). In 2019, he signed with Cleveland for $1 million. In 2020, he signed with the Cardinals for $2 million. And in 2021, he signed with the Phillies for one year and $3.5 million.
His playing time has also increased in each of those seasons. In 2019, he played in 79 games. In the shortened 2020 season, he played in 48 games (out of 60). In 2021, he played in 140 games.
Since his playing time went up once again, should we expect another salary increase for Brad Miller?
Probably not. Unfortunately for Miller, his age has also gone up in each of the past three seasons (as age is wont to do). He hasn’t shown any particular signs of physical decline, but he will be 32 next season, and these days it’s hard for non-star players in their thirties to command very much in free agency.
Furthermore, as Brad Miller’s games played went up, his numbers went down. From 2019-2020, he had an .853 OPS and a 124 wRC+. But in 2021, he had just a .774 OPS and 105 wRC+. In more playing time, Miller demonstrated exactly why he shouldn’t be a full-time starter on a contending team.
Thus, I think Brad Miller’s current value is not so different than it was last offseason, and he should be in line for another $4 MM or so. Among this year’s free agent class, the best comparison for Miller is probably Kole Calhoun — both are above-average hitters, left-handed, and in their thirties, and they have similar ZiPS and Steamer projections — and Calhoun signed with the Rangers for one year and $5.2 MM. Calhoun, however, doesn’t have bad platoon splits and is expected to start for the Rangers in right field, so Miller probably won’t earn quite as much.
If the Phillies go big signing a left fielder and strengthening the bullpen, there may not be room for Brad Miller in the budget. That’s a very real possibility, and it might be the right decision.
But for $4 MM, I’d be very happy to see Brad Miller in Phillies pinstripes for another season. He’s a weapon off the bench, and his strong bat and defensive versatility make him a strong depth piece to have around for when players in the starting lineup inevitably get injured. The Phillies will have several unproven young players competing for spots on the bench this season, and it will be good to have at least one bat that they know they can count on.