PHOENIX -- After establishing himself as one of the game's premier setup men in 2014, free-agent lefty Andrew Miller might be ready to graduate to a more prominent role.
Miller, 29, went 5-5 with a 2.02 ERA and struck out 103 batters in 62 1/3 innings with Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles this past season. Although he has recorded only one save in 259 big league appearances, his agent, Mark Rodgers, said Miller is generating strong interest from several teams in the market for a closer this offseason.
"I think Andrew's evolution in the bullpen and his numbers this year fortify the belief in baseball that he's a closer-in-waiting -- and maybe the time for waiting is over,'' Rodgers said Tuesday from the MLB general managers' meetings.
Although Rodgers declined to comment on potential suitors for Miller, several contending clubs with big payrolls are looking for late-inning relief help. That list includes the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers.
New York's incumbent closer, David Robertson, became a free agent after rejecting a $15.3 million qualifying offer Monday. While Dellin Betances is a strong in-house closer candidate, Robertson's departure still leaves a late-inning relief void in the Bronx.
The Dodgers (Kenley Jansen) and Red Sox (Koji Uehara) have established closers on their staffs but are looking to make bullpen upgrades. And the Tigers had major bullpen issues in 2014 and previously expressed interest in Miller during the July trade deadline -- although sources said their main objective at the moment is re-signing designated hitter Victor Martinez.
Miller, selected by Detroit as the sixth pick in the 2006 draft out of the University of North Carolina, blossomed out of the Boston bullpen in 2012 and took his production to new heights this season. His 14.87 strikeouts per nine innings were the most in American League history by a pitcher with more than 50 innings. Miller also dominated hitters from both sides of the plate, holding lefties to a .467 OPS and righties to an OPS of .446.
In Baltimore's postseason series against Detroit and Kansas City, Miller threw 7 1/3 shutout innings with eight strikeouts.
Rodgers said he plans to be "methodical'' in his discussions with teams and doesn't expect anything to happen quickly. The agent also didn't rule out the possibility of Miller signing with a contending team as a setup man or a Plan B to an entrenched closer.
"For us, there are no demands or expectations on what role it's going to be,'' Rodgers said. "A team that signs Andrew Miller is a team that has put a premium on its bullpen -- because no matter how the bullpen is, he's going to make it better.''