Most of the focus of the Red Sox' offseason plans has been on two positions: starting pitcher and third base. This is perfectly reasonable, since there are a number of appetizing options out there at both spots, and they're the two glaring areas of need for the team. Boston got a combined .211/.271/.308 out of its third basemen this year (an OPS 140 points lower than Pablo Sandoval's worst season), and a team with Joe Kelly as its probable No. 2 starter is... unlikely to print October tickets.
Still, the Sox can certainly spare a bit of time and money to shore up other areas of the team. Ben covered one when he suggested that Boston should make a run at Russell Martin, and now I'm going to chime in for a bullpen fix. The Red Sox ought to try to re-sign lefty and Quixote impersonator Andrew Miller. Why go after a bullpen arm given the current state of the team? Well...
First and foremost, Miller has been utterly dominant the last few seasons. In 2013, prior to a season-ending foot injury, he struck out 48 batters in 30.2 innings. He returned to action this year, and got even better, striking out 103 batters over 62.1 innings split between Boston and Baltimore. That's a 14.6 K/9 over two seasons, which is bonkers. Better still, he managed to get his walk rates under control in 2014, issuing only 17 unintentional BBs. In addition to the low walk rate, Miller's stuff has always been such that he keeps the ball in the park, he's only given up six home runs in the last two years. Best of all, Miller is that rarest of things: a left-handed reliever who can get righties out. He held right-handed batters to a .245 OBP this year, which is worse than his numbers against lefties only because he held lefties to a .206.
As it stands now, Boston's bullpen has three definite pieces: Koji Uehara, Edward Mujica, and Junichi Tazawa. All are good-to-elite relievers, although each had their struggles last year (Koji toward the end, Mujica toward the beginning, Tazawa any time a maple leaf was involved). All are right-handed, of course, to which Miller would theoretically provide balance. Weirdly, though, not one of those three has a platoon split either, with the possible exception of Tazawa, who has a slight reverse split. Koji, hilariously, has the exact same career numbers against righties and lefties, holding everyone to a .570 OPS. Still, for the simple reason that not every manager seems to read their scouting reports, a big lefty could be useful.
More importantly, adding Miller turns the bullpen from a strength to a weapon, the sort of pen that can achieve the mystic "game-shortening" everyone dreams about. This seems particularly useful for Boston, given the likely state of their starting pitching this coming year. As of now, Boston's rotation would be Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly, followed by probably Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, and Anthony Ranaudo. Even assuming improvement from the three kids, having a strong pen would be a necessity if there's any plan to win games in 2015. The young guys can't be expected to go eight every time out, and it seems bad for their development to watch games spin out after they couldn't get through the sixth. And if Boston instead manages the best-case scenario. re-signing Jon Lester and trading for an additional starter in the Johnny Cueto/Jeff Samardzija mold? Then now they've got a team with a good rotation and a great bullpen, and contention beckons.
The less-fun reason to sign Miller, of course, is as Koji insurance. Much as we all love Koji, he is entering his age-40 season, and he can get homer-prone when he's worn out. And while Mujica is a solid potential replacement, Miller's on Koji's level. Redundancy!
Of course, other teams know Miller's numbers, and have far more pressing bullpen needs than Boston. Detroit and Los Angeles come swiftly to mind as teams that would overpay, and New York will probably take a shot. If it comes to a bidding war, then clearly Boston can step back. But as an elite option to reinforce a likely strength of the 2015 team, Andrew Miller is worth a serious look.