Shelby Miller lands with Cubs 5 years after World Series near miss

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Tim Stebbins
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Miller lands with Cubs 5 years after World Series near miss originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

​It could have happened five years ago this past December, when Shelby Miller was coming off a breakout season with the Braves.

One beat writer even reminded Miller on Tuesday: “There was an idiot in Chicago that tweeted out a deal could be done for [Javy] Báez, and then two days later you were traded to the D-Backs.”

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That would have been a trade in time for the historic 2016 Cubs World Series season.

“That would have been sick,” Miller said of the World Series near miss. “But then we wouldn’t have had Javy. I think it worked out pretty good.”

Those trade talks actually involved Jorge Soler and Miller, and they were brief and went nowhere. Then came the 2015 Winter Meetings trade to the Diamondbacks.

Maybe it wasn't exactly a near miss after all. Five year later, Miller finally landed with the Cubs as a non-roster invitee in spring training looking to make the most of his opportunity with the club.

Miller’s career has hit some bumps since being named an All-Star in 2015. The 30-year-old has appeared in just 48 games (36 starts) since 2016, all with Arizona and Texas, turning in a 6.89 ERA. He missed extended time to injury — including most of 2017 (Tommy John surgery) and 2018.

“I feel like I’m on the other side of all that stuff now,” he said Tuesday.

The right-hander performed well with the Brewers last spring training, although he was assigned to the club’s alternate site in Appleton, Wis., post-COVID-19 shutdown. He had a newborn son at home and ultimately opted out of the season in early August.

Miller kept up a throwing program at home that included bullpen sessions, but that's a far cry from pitching a season. Teams wanted to see him throw this winter.

"I didn’t really throw much last year," he said. "It kind of gave my arm even more of a break."

That might be the biggest question of the season for Miller: Will the extra time off benefit him or did he lose a season in his comeback?

Miller is a starter by trade and signed before the Cubs added Trevor Williams and Jake Arrieta. The Cubs rotation picture also includes Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies, Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay. But with the innings increase from the shortened 2020 season, teams will need plenty of arms in 2021.

Miller has relief experience, making 11 appearances out of the bullpen with the Rangers in 2019. He could be in the mix for the Cubs roster as a multi-inning reliever or spot starter. 

“I’ve always tried to replicate myself to be a guy who’s going to adapt to any situation,” he said. “I’ve started and relieved, long and short.

"However I can help, I am more than willing to do it. I just want to bring the best out of me."

And, most importantly: “I feel 100 percent," he said.

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