Tampa Bay Rays: Should Move Brad Miller Back to First Base

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 10: Tampa Bay Rays infielder Brad Miller (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 10: Tampa Bay Rays infielder Brad Miller (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Rays intend to address their first base opening either by trade or via free agency this off-season, however, they have a temporary solution in Brad Miller already on the 25-man roster.

Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Rays tendered contracts to their nine arbitration eligible players, one of which was Brad Miller. According to mlbtraderumors.com, Miller’s projected salary is $4.4 million, a modest $825 thousand raise from 2017 when he earned $2.575 million.

There are many, specifically the fans that think Miller is not worthy of the projected salary. Let’s face it; his entire season was a total washout as he was plagued with groin and abdominal injuries, requiring stints on the disabled list that caused him to miss 52 games. When he was active, he did not play well – offensively or defensively.

It was not revealed until November that Miller underwent core muscle surgery in October. Miller told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:

"“I was obviously laboring for a while and didn’t feel right, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to see a specialist and get to the bottom of it,’’ Miller said. “I’m glad I was able to take care of it so quickly after the (season).’’"

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Miller was not thrilled about the change in positions, his third since joining the Rays. Miller would say all the right things that everyone wanted to hear and would accept the move. He was familiar with second, having logged 37 games over three seasons with the Mariners, so it seemed a good bet that he could handle the change and he was the clear favorite of the Tampa Bay Rays for the position.

I am not an expert in what the psychological effects of a change in positions can have on a player, especially when it happens so frequently. However, injuries aside, it may have played a significant part of Miller’s poor season.

Nevertheless, Miller’s bat never caught on fire as he slashed .201/.327/.337 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs. He struggled from day one defensively at second base, committing 11 errors in 357 chances for a .969 fielding percentage with an Rdrs of -4 in 98 games at second base.

Making matters worse, when the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Adeiny Hechavarria just before the trade deadline, Miller’s playing decreased as the Rays shifted Tim Beckham over to second. However, Miller returned as the starting second baseman when Beckham was traded to Baltimore at the trade deadline.

Fast forward to this off-season and Miller is once again involved in controversy concerning his days as a Tampa Bay Ray. However, the controversy could end well before it hits its peak by the Rays making Miller their first baseman.

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While he did enjoy a career year offensively in 2016, he did admirable job defensively at first base. In 39 games (37 starts) Miller committed just four errors in 293 chances for a .986 fielding percentage with an Rdrs of -2.

With Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda becoming free agents, it makes logical sense that the Rays should move Miller back to first base. As the roster stands now, assuming Hechavarria is not traded, is your shortstop. Matt Duffy provided he is healthy, would move to second. Thus, putting Miller back at first base where he would be a stopgap until the Rays call up Jake Bauers.

The Rays decided to tender Miller a contract, which is understandable in spite of of his projected salary – this was one of the Rays biggest decisions as to whether or not they would do so. So, why did the Rays tender tender him a contract if he is not in their long-term plans?

Had they not non-tendered him, he would have become a free agent and the Rays would not get a return. As well, the Rays felt that he could rebound from his poor 2017 season and rebound back to his production of 2016 when he hit 30 home runs with 81 RBIs.

Despite the consequences of a possible arbitration hearing, Miller will be paid what he asks for or what the arbitrators grant. At the same time, speculation is that the Rays will attempt to trade him at some point during the off-season.

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If trimming the payroll is a priority and knowing the Miller will earn a raise with or without an arbitration hearing, the Rays can fill their first base opening looking no further than at their current 25-man roster with Brad Miller.