By Barry Bloom
SAN DIEGO — Yankees reliever Andrew Miller has a heartbeat so he’s well-aware of the trade rumors that have been flying about him in recent weeks, every one of them unsubstantiated.
“I’m human,” Miller told MLB.com in the clubhouse before Sunday’s closing of a three-game series against the Padres at Petco Park. “The way the Internet works, I hear about it from my wife and children. I mean, it is what is. I’ve been down that road before a little bit.”
Would another club like to have the left-hander? He has 43 saves during his season and a half as a Yankee and might be the best value in the Major Leagues at $9 million a year through 2018.
But Miller said Yankee executives have assured him during the past month that a trade isn’t happening.
“The media has been throwing a few things out there, but I’ve had reassurances from them at the times I’ve talked to them that it’s something that hasn’t been discussed or planned for or anything like that,” he said. “I think that’s kind of nice.
“But I have no trade protection. I’m at the mercy of that what they decide to do. I get it. It’s a business. I want to be here. I want to play here. But it’s impossible to avoid sometimes.”
Asked to be specific about who he talked to in Yankees management, Miller added:
“There haven’t been reach-outs or anything like that. But you run into people and they tell you not to read into anything you’re hearing.”
At the halfway point of the season, this all becomes germane. The Yankees entered Sunday two games under .500 and the season can go in either direction at this point. A nice little winning streak could put them in position to make a run at the American League East or at the least a Wild Card slot.
But if they continue to remain around .500, general manager Brian Cashman has to make some decisions as the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline grows closer.
Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran are the most obvious players to move. Both are free agents at the end of the postseason. There’s been some talk within the organization about trying to re-sign Chapman, but unless that’s done prior to him becoming a free agent, there are no guarantees.
Trading the 39-year-old Beltran may be problematic. He has a limited no-trade clause in his contract and could block a deal to 15 of the other 29 big league teams. It would also only be realistic for Beltran to go to a contender. He’d love to win it all. Only once in his 19-year career has he played in the World Series, for the Cardinals in 2013 when they lost in six games to the Red Sox.
Miller and Beltran have both been dealt at the trade deadline. Miller from the Red Sox to the Orioles two years ago and Beltran from the Mets to the Giants in 2011.
Beltran played right field and played well for the Giants, batting .323 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 44 games.
“I hurt my [right] hand over there, but I got back soon and I was able to help the team as much as I could,” Beltran said.
Beltran again could be traded to a team trying to win. The playoff contending Tigers, Royals, Dodgers, Cardinals and Nationals are on his current go-to list.
Beltran has been nursing a tight right hamstring and hasn’t started a game in a week. His age and his contract status make it difficult for the Yankees to obtain any top prospects for him. Ditto Chapman, who would be a short-term rental, plus has the stigma of a 30-day domestic abuse suspension hanging over this head.
Miller was an excellent setup man for manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles in 2014, allowing only three earned runs on eight hits, while walking four and striking out 34 in the 20 innings he pitched.
The Orioles went on to the AL Championship Series where they were swept by the Royals.
Miller’s performance and willing attitude made him an attractive free-agent pick-up for the Yankees, who outbid the Red Sox and signed him to a three-year, $27 million contract.
Last season, the Yankees installed Miller as the closer for the first time in his career and he responded by saving 36 games and striking out 100 in 61 2/3 innings to win the Mariano Rivera Award as the top reliever in the American League.
The Yankees obtained Chapman from the Reds in the offseason, but when the fire-balling lefty was suspended for the first month of the season, Miller continued on a roll saving five games and winning another.
When Chapman was activated, Miller slid back into his more traditional eighth-inning setup role and has become one prong — with Chapman and Dellin Betances — of the most lethal relief trio in the league.
The Yankees came into Sunday 13-1 in games in which the three pitchers have thrown.
Miller, 31, does well in every situation and his good nature never wavers. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said that Miller is “a pleasure” to manage. He’s the whole package and as such would certainly be able to generate the most talent in a trade.
“I hope that they keep me around,’ Miller said. “But I understand there are situations and there are offers that could be too good to refuse. That’s the reality of the business. I can’t worry about it. I have zero leverage in the situation, but I came here to play for the Yankees.”