As we’ve talked about the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen over the past 10 days or so, I’ve pretty much landed in a place where I see the need (or maybe something just shy of “need”) to add a reliable, quality, late-inning, veteran arm to the mix. The two biggest names out there in that category are probably David Robertson and Andrew Miller, each of whom feels on some level like a pricey luxury for the Cubs, even if I totally see the merit.
All that said, the rumors are consistently strong enough at this point, and we’re sufficiently early in the offseason such that I don’t want to rule anything out out of hand. So I’m going to go with the flow and track these rumors with vigor until someone gives me a good reason not to.
Also, there’s this:
jed hoyer said cubs seek weapon in pen, though not necessarily a closer. miller is 1 of many who'd fit in strong pen market
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 12, 2014
That goes a bit further than the Cubs merely looking to add a LOOGY or a long reliever. So there may well be something there with these top guys. And, on Miller, specifically, Bruce Levine hears that the Cubs have interest:
LH reliever Andrew Miller drawing interest from many teams including the White Sox and Cubs . Can set up or close .
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) November 11, 2014
To be sure, and as we’ve discussed, Miller is going to be one of the most popular relief arms on the market this offseason. Even if the Cubs really, really wanted to sign him, there will be so many suitors that you can’t count on anything.
An interesting aside in any pursuit of Miller would be the role the Cubs could offer to him, and the role he’d be looking for on his next team. First, and most obviously, the Cubs aren’t looking for a closer right now:
#Cubs GM Hoyer: "We feel really good about Rondon. He’s got great stuff, great makeup. (A closer is) not something we feel like we need."
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) November 11, 2014
That’s not quite the same thing as saying the Cubs absolutely wouldn’t add anyone who could be a closer, but Rondon was so clearly effective in the role last year that there’s no need to seek out a closer. Maybe you want to have a guy in place who can close if Rondon stumbles, but, beyond that, seeking out a “closer” is probably a mistake anyway.
But is Miller looking for an opportunity to close on his next team? His agent tells Jerry Crasnick that it’s probably time for Miller to become a closer, rather than the-next-great-closer. That said, he’s not ruling out going to a contender with an entrenched closer, and working in a setup role for now.
I’d think that, ultimately, Miller will go where he can make the most money (as he should), and it’s just a matter of how teams value his utility in the bullpen. Given the way savvy teams are using their pens these days, a reliever like Miller can have just as much impact in a setup role as a closing role, so long as he’s allowed to focus on high-leverage situations.
We’ll see if the Cubs maintain an interest after a preliminary round of meetings take place, and Miller and his agent start to get a sense of his market and value.