With Francisco Lindor on the injured list to start the year and the status of Jason Kipnis still pending (but also expected to involve an injured list trip), the Cleveland Indians added some infield depth on Sunday afternoon, signing veteran Brad Miller to a one-year Major League contract.
Miller opted out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday after being informed that he would not make the club. He was in the lineup for the Indians on Sunday, getting in work at second base.
Miller signed with the Dodgers on February 27 and had a solid spring, but Los Angeles appears to be holding a roster spot for touted prospect Alex Verdugo, whose name was linked to the Indians throughout the winter as a potential piece needed to make a trade for starting pitcher Corey Kluber possible. The 22-year-old Verdugo is expected to make the club, which made the 29-year-old Miller expendable.
“You either make the team or you get to see what your options are,” Miller told reporters this week when asked about his situation. “It’s pretty easy for my end. If another team has a big league opportunity, I’m a big league player.”
Miller exercised the out clause in his contract and did exactly as he said, finding said big league opportunity with the Indians.
The left-handed hitting six-year vet appeared in 12 games for the Dodgers in the spring, putting together a .385/.429/.615 slash with ten hits, including two homers and three runs batted in. Reports out of Arizona indicated that he also looked sharp defensively, adding further to his value.
Last year, Miller began his third straight season with the Tampa Bay Rays. He appeared in 48 games, hitting .256 with a .322 on-base percentage with ten doubles, one triple, five homers, and 21 RBI, before he was dealt on June 10 with cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for Ji-Man Choi. He worked with the Brewers until the end of July, when he was released as the club added Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop in separate trades before the trade deadline.
At the time of his release, he was hitting .230 with a .288 on-base percentage in 27 games with three doubles, one triple, two homers, and eight RBI while striking out 31 times in 80 plate appearances.
Miller’s best season came in his first with Tampa. He worked in 152 games that season, slashing .243/.304/.482 with career highs across the board, including hits (133), doubles (29), triples (6), homers (30), and RBI (81). He was initially a second round pick in 2011 by the Seattle Mariners out of Clemson University and spent three seasons in the Majors with the club from 2013 to 2015. He has played all four primary infield positions in his career and also logged innings at all three outfield spots, but not since 2015 and 2016.
The Indians have taken several hits to their infield this spring. Lindor came to camp already hurt after suffering a moderate right calf strain while preparing for the season. While he has returned to action in minor league camp, the Indians do not want to rush him back and have the issue linger throughout the season. Complicating matters further, Kipnis left Wednesday’s game with a mild right calf strain and was to be shut down for seven to ten days. When the Indians depart from Goodyear to start the season, both players are expected to remain in Arizona to continue working their way back from their injuries.
Cleveland had Ryan Flaherty in camp, but the veteran exercised his opt out on Wednesday when it appeared that he would not make the club. It left the Indians thinner after Kipnis’ injury, as the club had Max Moroff on the roster as a utility piece and a pair of inexperienced minor leaguers (Eric Stamets and Yu Chang) as options on the farm. Stamets is dealing with left hip tightness, but still could be in line to start the season on the roster over Chang, who had already been optioned to minor league camp.
To make room on the 40-man roster for the addition of Miller, the Indians placed pitcher Danny Salazar on the 60-day injured list. Salazar missed all of last season with a right shoulder injury and is still working his way through rehab, hoping to appear sometime before the All-Star break. The team also optioned reliever Nick Wittgren to Triple-A Columbus, clearing up the bullpen mix as the seven-man staff is now determined. The team is also waiting to announce a decision on Hanley Ramirez, who has an opt-out date in his contract on Sunday.
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