Brad Miller called out the Indians after being designated for assignment, but he is overestimating his value.
The Cleveland Indians have dealt with multiple key injuries early this season, and as they get those players back roster decisions will have to be made. With second baseman Jason Kipnis ready to return from a calf injury, Brad Miller was designated for assignment on Sunday.
After exercising the opt-out in his minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miller signed with the Indians late in spring training. He has essentially been an every day player for Cleveland, starting 12 games at second base while hitting .250 with one home run and four RBI.
With his $1 million salary with the Indians not fully guaranteed, and with a 45-day advanced consent clause, Miller had to know his time with the team could be short. But that didn’t stop him from venting about the decision to DFA him. (via Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer):
It’s a tough trend. They acknowledge that it wasn’t fair. But I’m just a player. I go out there and play my hardest and play for the guys next to me.
Obviously, they don’t want the best guys up here. So I’m just trying to take it somewhere else and see what we’ve got.
Amid the injuries, Indians’ manager Terry Francona has had trouble putting a major-league caliber lineup out there so far this season. So Miller is third on the team in OPS (.742), and with a team batting average below the Mendoza line (.194) his .250 mark stands out somewhat. And when it comes down to it his versatility, with at least some experience at all four infield positions in his career, would be a point in his corner to stick around with the Indians.
Miller had what will stand as his career year in 2016 with the Tampa Bay Rays when he hit 30 home runs with 29 doubles and six triples. But even that year he hit just. 243 with a lower OPS than you might expect with that power surge (.786). More advanced numbers, like OPS+ (113, with 100 as average) and bWAR (1.6) show a barely above average player in his best year.
Kipnis is clearly in decline, but even last year he hit 18 home runs and drove in 75 over 147 games as he was good for 1.6 bWAR. So he literally offered the same value in 2018, as measured by Baseball Reference’s WAR, as Miller did in the best season of his career.
Miller can be frustrated about being designated for assignment, with where he’ll be playing the rest of the season now in doubt. But the assertion the Indians “don’t want the best guys up here” is a stretch, and a fading Kipnis seems to be no worse than an equivalent player.