The Cleveland Indians recently decided not to tender qualifying offers to Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Michael Brantley. Do any of them fit in Toronto as free agents?
It sounds like the Cleveland Indians are going to make some pretty big changes to their roster for 2019, as they’re reportedly willing to listen to trade offers for some of their valuable veterans like Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and former Blue Jay Edwin Encarnacion.
While that’s definitely an interesting bit of baseball news, I don’t think it’s going to be relevant to the Blue Jays. You could make an argument for pursuing Kluber or Carrasco and their three years of contract control, but the trade demands in return are going to be astronomical.
More likely, if the Blue Jays are going to employ any former Cleveland Indians players I would suspect the additions to come from the free agent market. In particular, Cleveland decided not to extend the qualifying offer to any of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, or Michael Brantley. Would any of those players fit in Toronto for 2019?
I’ve already written about Allen and Miller and their potential fit in Toronto earlier this fall, and I still think it makes sense depends on how their respective markets take shape. I argued that both relievers might benefit from taking a one year “pillow contract” in order to re-establish their premium value. In that case, I would be happy to see the Blue Jays even overpay for their services, both to help protect the young rotation they’re bound to employ next season, and to get themselves a nice trade chip for when the hot stove gets going in July.
Miller threw just 34.2 innings in 2018, sporting a 4.24 ERA and a 1.382 WHIP, far from his typically dominant numbers. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a team willing to bank on a big rebound, but if he doesn’t find that kind of landing spot then it could make a lot of sense. That said, Miller is 33, so he may want to cash in on as big of a contract as he can now. For example, MLBtraderumors has him going to Boston on a three year, 27 million dollar deal, which could make sense for both parties.
Allen is in a similar spot, and might have even more reason to consider a one year contract at just 29 years old. He had a similarly difficult season, appearing in 67 innings and making 27 saves, but sporting a 4.70 ERA and a 1.358 WHIP. He’s been excellent since earning his way to the big leagues in 2012, but he doesn’t have quite as lengthy of a track record as Miller, and it could make some sense for him to take a year to prove he’s the elite closer we’ve seen in the past.
The third player would be Michael Brantley, who I was actually hoping the Blue Jays would take a chance on last season. Cleveland elected to keep him around despite back to back season of injury-riddled months spent in the rehab room, and it paid off for the AL Central champions. Brantley slashed an impressive .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs and 76 RBI, playing in 143 games and earning an All-Star berth. As much as I would like to see him wearing a Blue Jays jersey, at 31 and with a pretty shaky injury history, he probably doesn’t make any sense in a rebuild.
That takes us back to Miller and Allen, and while I still think there’s a fit there on a short term contract, I wouldn’t bank on either pitcher coming to Toronto either, unless the market really isn’t what they’re hoping for. That remains a possibility, but the value of quality bullpen help has never been greater either.
So while it’s become a bit of a reflex to wonder if Cleveland and the Blue Jays will match up on available players, this winter I don’t know that we’re going to see that happen. Including the three free agents, plus the reportedly available Encarnacion, Kluber, and Carrasco, there are plenty of talented players to peak Shapiro and Atkins’ interest.
Given the state of the rebuild though, I would be very surprised to see a fit between any of the above mentioned players. This time, that Cleveland connection is probably pretty irrelevant.