Atlanta Braves Deal Away Shelby Miller, Score Big With Prospects
The Atlanta Braves have been floating starting pitcher Shelby Miller on the open market for some time now this offseason, seeing what they could possibly garner back in a deal with the hopes of capitalizing on his value at his highest possible peak. While, there is capitalizing, and then there is outright thievery, which is what the Braves just did to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the deal that sent Miller to the D-Backs for outfielder Ender Inciarte, and two very high-end minor league prospects, starting pitcher Aaron Blair, and former #1 overall pick in this past MLB Amateur Draft, shortstop Dansby Swanson. The D-Backs also received minor league pitcher Gabe Speier.
Last season for the Braves, Miller was 6-17 W-L, with a 3.02 ERA, 183 H’s, 82 R’s/69 ER’s, 13 HR’s, 73 BB’s, 171 SO’s, and a 1.247 WHIP in 33 GS/205.1 IP’s. Miller’s win-loss record is a bit deceiving, as the Braves were arguably one of the worst teams last season, and his defense behind him didn’t do him any favors as you can see by the discrepancy in his runs v. earned runs. Inciarte for the D-Backs last season was more than serviceable, with a .303/.338/.408 triple-slash, with 73 R’s, 159 H’s, 27 2B’s, 6 HR’s, 45 RBI’s, 21 SB’s, 26 BB’s, 58 SO’s, and an .747 OPS in 524 at-bats. Blair split time between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno for the D-Backs, going a combined 13-5 W-L, with a 2.92 ERA, 137 H’s, 59 R’s/52 ER’s, 13 HR’s, 50 BB’s, 120 SO’s, and a 1.166 WHIP in 25 GS/ 160.1 IP’s. Lastly, Swanson tore up his brief stint in low-A rookie ball with a .289/.394/.482 triple-slash, 19 R’s, 24 H’s, 7 2B’s, 1 HR, 11 RBI’s, 14 BB’s, 14 SO’s, and a .876 OPS in 83 at-bats.
The deal sent shock-waves throughout the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, where the Baseball Winter Meetings were taking place this past week, mostly because we’ve never seen a trade like this before. MLB recently started allowing teams to trade players they recently drafted, and teams are taking full advantage it this. The Boston Red Sox recently sent pitcher Logan Allen, who was also drafted in this past draft, to the San Diego Padres in the deal that sent closer Craig Kimbrel back to the Bo Sox. But never did anyone think that the #1 overall pick would ever get traded this early on in the process.
Swanson is being held in high regard in the prospect world, with the consensus believe he would be in the top 10-20 on most prospect list. He is a high-ceiling prospect and a tremendous athlete who may or may not stay at shortstop. In addition to Swanson, Blair is as equally touted as a prospect and a major get for the Braves in this deal. Blair, in his own right, is a top 50 prospect and projects to be a very good #2-#3 starter in their rotation. You can argue that Swanson alone for Miller as a deal, or just Blair and Inciarte for Miller, would be great returns for the Braves, so to get all three of these players makes this deal a flat out win for the Braves.
Did the D-Backs improve their starting rotation with Miller for the immediate future? Sure they did. Miller as a good #2 starter paired with recently added ace Zack Greinke and other mainstays like Patrick Corbin, Chase Anderson, Rubby De La Rosa, Daniel Hudson (possible return to the rotation) and Archie Bradley, will make up a very capable starting rotation that can push for a postseason spot. Miller is eligible for salary arbitration starting after this season and will get expensive very quickly, and after spending $200 million on Greinke, one has to wonder just how much more money the D-Backs have left over for Miller.
But you can’t fault them for trying to “go for it” and it will give their fans something to be excited about coming into this upcoming season. However, the future impact this trade will have on the D-Backs doesn’t justify the return Miller will provide them, aside from winning a World Series title. And I don’t even think simply making the postseason and then bowing out in the NLDS would justify this deal.
Now, if reports are true that the D-Backs offered a similar package to the Miami Marlins for Jose Fernandez (varying reports are the Marlins wanted center fielder A.J. Pollack and/or Corbin in a similar package), then I’d be more inclined to get on board with what new General Manager Dave Stewart is trying to do. But Fernandez is in a completely different tier of starting pitchers than Miller is.
It’s pretty easy to see that the Braves are in complete rebuild mode and their fans should expect many wins this season. But with this deal and the previous moves made at the trading deadline last season, in the next two-to-three years we might be talking about the Braves as the next successful rebuild project much like the Chicago Cubs or Houston Astros.