8:30am: The Phillies and Miller are working toward a deal that would come with a guarantee in the $3MM to $3.5MM range, Morosi
7:45am: The Phillies are in talks with veteran utilityman Brad Miller about a contract for the 2021 season, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reports (via Twitter). If completed, it’d mark Miller’s second stint with the Phillies after spending half the season with them in 2019.
A Miller reunion would be an affordable and sensible upgrade for the Phillies’ bench. Manager Joe Girardi said this week that with Didi Gregorius now officially back in the fold, it’s likely that Jean Segura is penciled in for the starting role at second base (Twitter link via Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer). Scott Kingery will again bounce around the diamond and see time at multiple positions. Kingery has average or better defensive grades at each of second base, third base, shortstop and in center field but will be looking for a rebound at the plate after slumping through 124 plate appearances in 2020 following a bout with Covid-19.
On days when Kingery is tasked with roaming the outfield, the current iteration of the Phils lacks much in the way of infield depth. The Phillies acquired infield prospect C.J. Chatham — a former Dave Dombrowski draftee — from the Red Sox earlier this winter but have little on the 40-man roster behind him. Ronald Torreyes will be in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, but at the moment, a couple of injuries would leave the Phillies reliant on a thin farm system that lacks MLB-ready infield talent.
Miller, 31, would give them another versatile player to add to the mix. He’s not the defender that Kingery is, but he’s been a much better hitter of late and has a longer track record at the MLB level. In 171 plate appearances with the Cardinals in 2020, Miller slashed .232/.357/.451, and over the past three years combined he’s a .247/.329/.468 batter with 27 homers, 27 doubles and four triples. He’s strikeout-prone (29.1 percent in that time), which limits his batting average, but Miller draws plenty of walks (10.4 percent) and makes frequent hard contact.
The Cardinals used Miller as a designated hitter more often than anything else in 2020, although he played 15 games at third base and also appeared at shortstop and second base. He lined up most frequently in left field and at third base with the Phillies in 2019, but Miller has more than 3000 MLB innings at shortstop, more than 1200 at second base and more than 600 at first base as well.
The Phillies, by all indications, are angling to stay beneath the $210MM luxury tax threshold, but signing Miller wouldn’t jeopardize that goal. They’re currently at $198.7MM worth of luxury obligations, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource, and Miller’s price ought to only push that upward by a few million dollars.