On February 12th, the Cardinals signed utilityman Brad Miller. This is a low risk move that filled a lot of needs for the Cardinals. At the very least, it he does not play well, then he is on a 1-year, $2 million contract that will not be expensive to get rid of. However, his potential as a solid left handed bat off the bench, gives the Cardinals something that was not already present on their roster.
Prior to the signing the Cardinals infield options off the bench consisted of Tommy Edman/Matt Carpenter, Rangel Ravelo, and either Edmundo Sosa or Yairo Munoz. While Ravelo, and the Edman/Carpenter combo gives the Cardinals a pair of solid bats, Brad Miller likely represents an improvement over Edmundo Sosa or Yairo Munoz. Miller provides the defensive flexibility of Munoz, but with a much better hitting ability.
One of the problems with both Munoz and Sosa is that neither player is a very good hitter. After a solid campaign at the plate in 2018, Munoz’s production crashed in 2019 to the tune of a 73 wRC+. Additionally, Sosa is an advanced defender, but not a great hitter. Obviously, we do not know much about how Sosa will play in the big leagues because he has only tallied 10 major league plate appearances. However, he has never finished a season with a wRC+ of 100 or above in any minor league season above rookie-level ball. He did finish the AAA season with a solid .801 OPS last season, but in the crazy hitting environment of the Pacific Coast League, that only translated to a 95 wRC+. There is still a chance that Sosa develops into at least an average hitter, and most scouts rate his glove well. However, Brad Miller provides a decent glove and a solid bat against right handers, which is something that Munoz and Sosa are unlikely to provide.
Brad Miller provides a solid left handed bat off the bench, with the potential for power. In 2016, he tallied 30 home runs, and last season he finished with 13 home runs and a .305 ISO. He also has a career 110 wRC+ against right handers. This is solid production from a bench bat, and especially one who has graded out as an average defensive middle infielder.
Miller also provides versatility to the Cardinals. He has graded out as an average defender at second base and left field, while also playing a below average first base, third base and shortstop. Even though he is not a fantastic defender, having the ability to play in so many different positions will allow Mike Shildt to give some of the regular starters a rest, while still having confidence in the lineup.
This is the kind of move that a playoff team makes in order to fill out its bench with more quality. A bench unit of Carpenter/Edman, Ravelo, Miller, Wieters, and whichever young outfielder is in the MLB but not starting is a strong group. There is potential for four of these players to be above average hitters off the bench, and there is plenty of versatility among the group. This will give Mike Shildt plenty of different defensive lineup options that should help players like Paul DeJong not get fatigued by the end of the season.
Additionally, by signing Miller, Munoz and/or Sosa should be allowed to start the year in AAA. They would be available for help if needed, and Sosa would likely be the starter if either Kolten Wong or Paul DeJong got hurt. Even if Miller struggles to perform, it is not difficult to get rid of a $2 million contract. Due to this, there is plenty of upside, and not much downside. This is a signing that makes plenty of sense for the Cardinals. His power potential, versatility and, left-handedness give the Cardinals a more diverse bench and this should help them be more successful in 2020.