Besides Paul Goldschmidt, Brad Miller has been the star of a St. Louis Cardinals lineup that can struggle to score runs. The infielder is second among regular starters in wOBA (.363), xWOBA (.409), exit velocity (90.1 mph) as well as first in wOBACON (.433) and xwOBACON (.514). This is already impressive, but perhaps even more so for a journeyman infielder who was signed to a $2 million contract before the start of the season. Additionally, his production has helped make up for the lack of production the Cardinals have gotten from Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, and the outfield as a whole.
While this production has been much needed for the Cardinals, Miller is also 30 years old and has yet to experience consistent success, or lock down a consistent starting role. His best stretch was between 2013 and 2016 when he spent three seasons as a member of a the Mariners and one season as a member of the Rays and posted 7 fWAR in four seasons, for an average of 1.75 fWAR. He then struggled in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before coming on strong at the end of 2019 and in 2020. This makes the question of a contract extension a little more difficult. He has been a great player this season, but his age and lack of consistency gives him some major question marks.
Additionally, the Cardinals must consider if they want to hand out more money to a veteran when they are about to get contracts like Carpenter’s, Molina’s and Dexter Fowler’s off the books. Barring any extensions to these three players, the Cardinals will have an additional $56 million off the books by the end of the 2021 season. This creates two ways of looking at a potential Brad Miller extension. To begin with, Miller will likely receive a somewhat significant raise on his current salary, regardless of which team signs him. In addition, he will likely ask for a multi-year deal. With so much money coming off the Cardinals’ books after the 2021 season, this could provide the Cardinals with the money needed to pay Miller without having to worry about the overall financial situation too much.
However, after the Cardinals paid Carpenter, Molina, and Fowler well into their thirties without receiving enough production in return, the Cardinals may decide that they do not want to risk such a situation again. Instead, it may be more valuable to simply let Tommy Edman take over third base after Matt Carpenter and then save money to attract a key player rather than bringing in another solid, but likely unspectacular veteran. The existence of the universal DH may allow both of these things to be possible, but it is still important for the Cardinals to be wary of the terms of a potential contract extension.
It may still be okay to re-sign Brad Miller because he could be a solid DH and infielder for the team. However, if this happens then the Cardinals need to minimize the length and salary of the contract and they especially should not go over two years in length. If the Cardinals exceed this, then it may be a sign that they have not learned from the experiences of paying veteran players well into their thirties. However, if they stay under three years then they could sign a productive player and save money to be ambitious in the trade or free agent market. Hopefully the Cardinals have learned from paying veterans well into their thirties and avoid the same mistake with Brad Miller by simply giving him a modest contract extension. However, if they are willing to give him a longer and more lucrative contract, then it could be a sign that the front office is following the same path as before.