JUPITER, Fla. -- At a time when players are bemoaning a slow-moving free-agent market and questioning the impact that analytics is having on aging players, Andrew Miller intends to be the exception.A free-agent for the third time in his career, Miller found a destination he desired and a deal he
JUPITER, Fla. -- At a time when players are bemoaning a slow-moving free-agent market and questioning the impact that analytics is having on aging players, Andrew Miller intends to be the exception.
A free-agent for the third time in his career, Miller found a destination he desired and a deal he believed to be fair back in December. That he signed before the calendar turned to 2019 is notable given the way the market has played out since.
Only two players older than Miller -- Charlie Morton and J.A. Happ, both starting pitchers -- received a more lucrative contract over the offseason. The only reliever to receive a contract with a higher average-annual value was Zack Britton. He just turned 31.
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Miller will be 34 in May.
"The game has gotten younger. I'm out to buck that trend," said Miller, who joins Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina as Cardinals with at least 13 seasons in the Majors. "There's something about established players and the value they can bring, not only on the field, but in the clubhouse and to fan bases."
On Thursday, Miller gave the Cardinals their first look at the lanky lefty they plan to deploy in critical late-inning spots this season. He took the mound at the team's Florida complex to throw next to Wainwright. More notably, Miller did so without restriction.
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Miller had entered free agency on the heels of an injury-riddled season that saw him land on the injured list three separate times with three different injuries -- first to his left hamstring, then his right knee, and lastly his pitching shoulder. After averaging 65 appearances a year for four seasons, Miller finished 2018 with 37.
Some pinpointed it as a predictable decline. Miller doesn't buy it.
"I've got a little chip on my shoulder," Miller said. "Last year I did not pitch well. I didn't pitch frequently. I didn't pitch to my standards. Certainly, I heard plenty of times this offseason that I'm old. I don't think I'm that old. I think I can go out and prove that I'm still the guy I was for the last five or six years."
That guy was one of the most dominant left-handers in the game. From 2012, when Miller transitioned to a relief full time, through 2017, he boasted a 2.01 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over 332 innings. He also helped redefine the role of relievers by flexing (and embracing) his flexibility.
The hiccup that followed in 2018 -- a 4.24 ERA and 1.38 WHIP -- didn't scare the Cardinals away, nor did the strain a long career may have already put on Miller's arm.
"When you're exploring the free-agent market, a lot of times you look at what you just did and you get excited about that and then sometimes you look at who might have more upside from what they just did," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "Given the time he missed, given the feedback and due diligence we did on his medical [history], we felt confident he was going to be the Andrew Miller of two years ago and not the Andrew Miller of last year."
The need to enhance their left-handed options out of the 'pen was as obvious as any the Cards had entering the winter. Six different lefty relievers combined for a 5.50 ERA last season. It was far from sufficient for a club that has some of the game's best left-handed batters -- Christian Yelich, Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo -- in its division.
It's a test Miller welcomes, one he sought out, in fact, while deciding where to land.
"There is nothing more rewarding than getting a chance to prove yourself against the best, and that's what those guys are," Miller said. "It will be a new challenge. Certainly, this division, on paper, is pretty darn good. It will be a lot of fun."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.