Will the Red Sox extend Andrew Miller?

Gregory Shamus

The Red Sox have one last open arbitration case: Andrew Miller. Is there more at work here than just a contract disagreement?

The Red Sox are not fans of arbitration. Dating back more than a decade, the team has avoided going to the table with their players, instead coming to an agreement with each and every arbitration-eligible player they've had before it came down to a contentious process with the potential to create bitterness between the player and the team.

Last week, the Red Sox did most of the work needed to add another year to the tally, signing all their players but one: Andrew Miller. The left-handed reliever filed at $2.15 million, with the Red Sox coming in at $1.55 million. That's 28% lower than Miller's figure, but at only $600,000, it seems like a gap that's easily covered for a team as well-off as the Red Sox. Would they really let such a relatively small amount break their streak?

Perhaps not. It's possible that the hold-up here is not about Boston's willingness to compromise, but their desire to lock him up for more than just one year. With better than five years of service time to his name, a one-year arbitration deal would see Andrew Miller hit free agency after the 2014 season. The only way to avoid that would be for the Red Sox to extend him, and it's likely their best chance for that will come before Miller is locked into a salary for 2014.

It's a little hard to believe, but Miller has been with the Red Sox for three years now, having been picked up as a reclamation project late in 2010. Boston's first go at fixing the former sixth-overall pick did not go well, with Miller being routinely battered as a starter back in the ill-fated 2011.season, but after moving to the bullpen he's seen considerably more success, producing a 3.04 ERA in 71 innings of work and racking up a K/9 better than 12.

Miller might seem a slightly unusual target for an extension. He's an erratic pitcher given his tendency for wildness, and while his success has been spread out over two seasons, he's still only been any good for those 71 innings. Add to that Boston's plethora of pitching options, and Miller just isn't the first choice to get locked in on.

On the other hand, even if he does run into trouble, it's unlikely that Miller would be a significant weight on the payroll in 2015. In fact, with the Red Sox not entirely up against the CBT at the moment, taking a slightly larger burden on for 2014 could ease their 2015 payroll by a couple million dollars if it meant avoiding the $4 million club option the team has on lefty Craig Breslow. Or, if the Sox simply prefer stability in the bullpen, adding Miller to Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, and the aforementioned Breslow as players the Red Sox can be sure of for 2015 would make for a solid core even if every other player left for warmer climes.

There's still a while to go before the arbitration meeting would take place, so there's no reason to think the two sides are any more likely to agree now than in early February. But given the team's history it seems safe to say they'll find some compromise unless the Sox are looking to make a statement. The only question is whether it will be for one year, or more.

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