Is Damian Miller A Fit?

Nov. 17, 2004
According to his agent, Damian Miller yesterday received a two-year contract offer from the Red Sox. Miller is holding out for a three-year deal and is expected to meet with other teams this week. For the Red Sox to offer Miller $2 million-$3 million per season, the Brian Schneider trade talks much have gone nowhere. Miller is the top free-agent catcher available, but that’s not saying a lot. It’s a little surprising there haven’t been any rumors connecting Jason Kendall and the Red Sox. Kendall isn’t the same kind of defender as Miller or Schneider, but he’s better than Mike Piazza and he’s someone who wouldn’t have to bat ninth in the lineup (Rotoworld).

Nov. 18, 2004
Damian Miller’s agent said the catcher will sign with the first team to offer him a three-year deal. We assume there is some monetary standard to go along with it. Miller is scheduled to meet today with the Brewers. Agent Mark Garber said he wouldn’t see it as a problem if the Red Sox signed Miller and continued negotiating with Jason Varitek, suggesting that Miller would be comfortable as a backup or would be open to a trade (Rotoworld).

This stems from recent grumblings that Jason Varitek is playing hardball. He wants a five year contract (at age 34!), 50 million dollars, and a no-trade clause. And apparently, he now wants stability:

“We have discussed multiple times how important that being able to stay in one place is,” the free-agent catcher said Tuesday. “This is your only shot to be able to do that.”

“We’re communicating pretty well at this point. I’ve even been on phone conversations, so we’re going to continue to do that,” said Varitek, a first-time free agent. “There’s a lot of things that’ll be involved that aren’t going to be just numbers.”

“It’s part of a process,” Varitek said. “We have to allow ourselves the ability to benefit from things that I’ve been able to create with my body and my durability over the years.”

Now, I bring you an article by avowed A’s fan, Dave Isaacs who writes comedy for MVN, and very hilariously so, typing out a ‘GM Chat’ in which he parodies baseball GMs. I asked him to tell us about Damian Miller, would he be a fit or not? His article is below:
First, let me just start off by saying that this article won’t be as inflammatory as the write-up I did on Keith Foulke. While I still hold a grudge towards Foulke, and I also still think that that pause in his delivery will cause a serious forearm injury later in his career, time has passed and I have moved on… sorta. Anyway, with the news of the “Damian Miller” market being set — the Red Sox offered the ex-Athletics’ backstop two years and seven million — Evan asked me to write about the guy and how he would fit on a Red Sox team.
Let me start off by informing you of the obvious: Damian Miller is no Jason Varitek at the plate. He will not hit 20 home runs, as his ceiling is probably 10. He will not play 140 games, and will probably need 15-20 more games off even if he doesn’t catch any of Tim Wakefield’s 33-35 starts. In other words, the Red Sox have to know what they’re getting in offering Miller a two (or three if they really want Miller) year deal — a 35 year old catcher who has taken a bunch of knocks over his 8 year career. Now that being said, Damian Miller isn’t some over-the-hill catcher who is unproductive. The A’s projected Miller as a bottom-of-the-order guy, as he had just come off a career-low in 2003 with a batting average of .233, in addition to a pitiful .679 OPS. Miller batted mainly in the 7 and 8 spot all season, but was hitting the ball very well in the beginning of the season. When Eric Chavez’ hand was broken by a Damaso Marte pitch, sidelining the third baseman for a month, Miller moved up the ranks so to speak. Scott Hatteberg manned the third slot, Dye the fourth, Durazo the fifth, and Miller sixth. On a team in which 1 in every 2.79 runners scored (for comparison’s sake, the Devil Rays had 1 in every 2.73 runners score), Miller was one of the few who would drive a runner in. The scary part was that he was also capable of emptying the bases with runners on first and third and no outs — with a double play. Basically, Miller doesn’t try to do too much, and his specialty is taking pitches away right up the middle. Leave it up too high, and he’ll drive it into the gap.
Consistency is Miller’s problem, and fatigue may have had a lot to do with his offensive resurgence and offensive combustion all in one season. His entire season was sort of a Jekyll/Hyde, as the first and second half splits were near opposites in terms of offensive production. Miller had an extremely poor second half: .242/.319/.321, while the first half was great: .298/.354/.467. On August 14th, Miller tied his career high in RBI with 47, and might have then decided it was time to trip and fall on his face. Miller’s batting average fell from .293 on the 14th until it reached .272 on the final day of the season. In his final 97 at-bats, Miller collected only 20 hits, only four of which were extra base hits. Though Miller’s offensive production tapered off, his defense was still gold glove quality. Though Ivan Rodriguez won his 11th gold glove recently — probably due to his reputation as a great catcher and based less on performance — Miller still managed to show how the job is supposed to be done behind the plate. Miller’s first and only first error didn’t come until September 12th, which ended a 139 game errorless streak, or 1,013 total chances. Miller’s final fielding percentage was .999, which was the highest in the AL. He also threw out 43.2% of runners attempting to steal, proving that he still had a gun. So in review: he provides a solid bat, has been spoken of fondly by Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, etc., and of course is solid defensively. The Dodgers, Red Sox and the Cardinals are all looking for catchers, and Miller could become a possible dark horse candidate. The only thing driving teams away may be offering a catcher of 35 a three-year deal. Miller may be forced to just go for two years, but seeing as there’s plenty of time to gauge interest,
What if he signs with the Sox? Not a bad bat to have in the lineup, but Theo better be paying for defense and a guy who can lead a pitching staff. Miller is a good candidate for a catcher who can handle hard stuff, especially breaking pitches like Curt Schilling’s split-fingered fastball. If a 35 year old catcher can get out in front of a 58-foot pitch quickly, you have to wonder why a 25 year old tries to stab at the ball. Miller is a solid bridge for Kelly Shoppach, or any hot prospect the Sox have climbing up the ladder. In other words, don’t expect big things. Most of the stuff will be behind the scenes. Maybe Curt Schilling will be nostalgic, maybe Randy Johnson will be so compelled to come to Boston with his battery mate and co-World Series MVP, and maybe “Brandon” Arroyo will benefit much like Rich Harden did.

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