The Dodgers are in agreement with free agent reliever Shelby Miller on a major league contract. The deal, which is pending a physical, reportedly comes with a $1.5MM base salary and additional performance bonuses.
Miller will step right onto the 40-man roster despite not having had much recent MLB experience. He’s made just 17 appearances at the game’s highest level over the last three years. That includes four late-season appearances with the Giants in 2022. Selected onto the big league roster for the season’s final two weeks, he was called upon four times in San Francisco.
The right-hander allowed five runs in seven innings for the Giants, but he struck out 14 while walking just three. That came in spite of a lackluster 8.4% swinging strike rate, but Miller excelled at freezing batters on pitches inside the strike zone. Opponents offered at just over half the would-be strikes he threw, well shy of the 68.8% league average for relievers.
He’s almost certainly not going to maintain that pace over a full season, but he flashed some ability to keep MLB hitters off balance with a pared-down repertoire. Miller featured only two pitches — a low-80s slider and a four-seam that averaged a bit above 94 MPH — during this year’s MLB action. He also found a fair bit of success in the upper minors, striking out an excellent 32.4% of opponents en route to a 3.62 ERA across 32 1/3 frames with the Giants’ top affiliate in Sacramento.
That was enough to intrigue multiple teams. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week the 32-year-old had major league offers on the table from two clubs. The Giants weren’t one of them, at least at that time, preferring to give him a Spring Training invitation to compete for a roster spot. Miller won’t have to do so in L.A., as he’ll receive a guaranteed salary and presumably be penciled directly into the big league bullpen. As a player with more than five years of MLB service time, he’ll have to remain in the majors or be designated for assignment. The Dodgers wouldn’t have offered an MLB deal if they didn’t anticipate he’d make the Opening Day roster.
While Miller’s brief MLB work and Triple-A numbers from this past season make him an interesting depth flier, he’s far from a sure thing to cement himself in the middle innings mix for skipper Dave Roberts. Miller has appeared at the MLB level in 10 of the past 11 years — only missing the shortened 2020 campaign — but he’s not found sustained success since 2015. One of the sport’s better young starters during his early days with the Cardinals and Braves, Miller saw his career go off track after the infamous deal that sent him to Arizona and landed Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte in Atlanta.
After posting a 6.05 ERA in 20 starts during his debut season with the D-Backs, he lost most of the 2017-18 campaigns rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He was tattooed for an 8.59 ERA with nearly as many walks as strikeouts in 44 frames for the Rangers in 2019, and it was a similar story during an abbreviated look with the Cubs and Pirates in 2021. All told, he owns a 7.02 ERA in 65 appearances with five teams since the end of the 2015 season. He’s worked almost exclusively in relief for two consecutive years.
Los Angeles relievers posted a 2.87 ERA this past season, the second-lowest mark in the majors. Their 26.7% strikeout rate placed fourth, with Evan Phillips and Yency Almonte breaking out alongside the more established Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol as late-inning arms. The Dodgers are also welcoming back Daniel Hudson from a season-ending ACL injury, giving them a decent number of high-upside relief options.
With the potential free agent departures of Craig Kimbrel, Tommy Kahnle and Chris Martin and the likelihood of a lost season for Blake Treinen, L.A. figures to continue trying to stockpile middle innings depth. Even factoring in Miller’s modest salary, Los Angeles has a bit under $153MM in estimated payroll commitments for next season. Finalizing their agreement with Clayton Kershaw is expected to tack on around $20MM to that mark, but there’s still plenty of room for bigger splashes at shortstop and in the starting rotation.
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic first reported the Dodgers and Miller were in agreement on a big league contract. Kiley McDaniel of ESPN was first to report it contained a $1.5MM base salary with performance bonuses.
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