Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sox Move Miley

Miley was 11-11 with a 4.46 ERA in his lone year with Boston (Boston Herald)
Less than a year after trading for Wade Miley, the Boston Red Sox are trading him away.

Miley was sent to Seattle yesterday, the latest casualty (along with reliever Jonathan Aro) of Dave Dombrowski's new quest to build a super-bullpen. He'd been acquired by the Sox last winter in a three-for-one swap with Arizona, replenishing a Boston rotation that had been depleted by trades the previous summer. They promptly locked up his arbitration years, making Miley an apparent fixture in Boston for seasons to come.

Ten months later, he's already gone. Not because he pitched poorly--his numbers last year were comparable to his final one in Arizona--but because Boston's new GM is hell-bent on assembling a shutdown relief unit (though I do wonder how much Miley's meltdown last summer contributed to the decision to trade him, as John Farrell is coming back and the Red Sox don't have much patience for internal feuds).

The David Price signing also made Boston's rotation too lefty-heavy, as he joins fellow southpaws Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens. It's generally not a good idea to have 80 percent of your starters throw from the left side when the left field wall in your home park is a mere 315 feet away. Fenway has chewed up and spit out many a lefty, and may well do the same to the aforementioned trio (as well as newcomer Roenis Elias--more on him in a minute).

But as I wrote in my analysis of last month's Craig Kimbrel trade, Boston's bullpen needed help. Red Sox relievers were among the worst in baseball last year, and adding 60 innings of Kimbrel was only a start. Getting another 70 from Carson Smith, Seattle's setup man last year, should help. Like Kimbrel, he's exactly the sort of young power arm Boston needs. Having him, Kimbrel, and a healthy Koji Uehara gives the Sox one of the best late-game relief corps in the majors.

Dombrowski appears to be trying to emulate Kansas City, who have ridden their stellar bullpen to consecutive AL pennants and a championship. Or he could be trying to avoid ending up like the Mets, who were undone in this year's Fall Classic by shaky relief work.

If this had been a one-for-one trade--Miley for Smith straight-up (which is how the press is spinning it)--then I'd be calling for Dombrowski's head. Miley's nothing special, but he's a durable league-average starter who soaks up innings, and that's more valuable than a setup man. But the Red Sox are basically getting Miley back in Elias, a lefthander who posted similar numbers last year. And seeing as how Elias is two years younger and won't be arbitration-eligible until 2018, he's the superior commodity. It's possible the third-year starting pitcher, whose next start will be his 50th, still elevates his game to another level. After four full seasons, the 29 year-old Miley is what he is at this point. Elias could wind up being better.

So Elias is more preferable to Miley, and Smith is probably better than Aro, who has yet to prove himself at the major league level. I'd say that makes this trade a win for Boston.

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