What if the Shelby Miller trade is a good trade? What if all of the pundits and naysayers are lost in a world of economic and sabermetric cloudiness? What if Tony La Russa and company are actually smarter than the rest of us?
I should certainly preface this piece by saying that it really hurts me to see so many high quality prospects and players leaving our farm system. But that does not mean that I necessarily think that this is a bad trade. Many people in the baseball world are coming out and saying "Oh my god, that is such an over pay for Shelby Miller"! What magic do these pundits possess to see into the minds of other GM’s that allows them to have such economic prowess? I’m sorry but I haven’t heard Sandy Alderson come out and say "I would have traded Matt Harvey, or Noah Syndergaard, for those pieces". So how do these people know that we over payed for Miller? It’s one thing to say that "I think they gave up too much" and an entirely different thing to say "they overpayed". But that argument is pedantic and beside the point; the point here is that I think we might view this trade differently in a few years.
Did we give up a lot to get Miller? Absolutely. But is it egregious? I don’t think so. When we traded for Curt Schilling all those years ago we gave up an extremely valued prospect in Travis Lee, along with Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, and Vicente Padilla. This was a lot to give up for Curt Schilling, but it was the price that was needed to get a good pitcher. Obviously this deal worked out very well for the Dbacks and not so well for the Phillies. But there was no way of telling whether or not Lee was going to become a Hall of Famer, or if the other pieces might become something. A similar trade a few years ago saw Toronto send Noah Syndergaard (a very high prospect), Travis D’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wuilmer Becerra to the Mets for R.A. Dickey. On the face, this trade obviously was better for the Mets, with Syndergaard and D’Arnaud looking like they will become good to great players. Yet, Dickey represented a willingness on Toronto’s side to "go for it", and this attitude turned Toronto into a formidable team last year because they know that they have(had) an opportunity to win now.
Furthermore, I think that we gave up a similar haul in our trade for Trevor Cahill a few years ago. Jarrod Parker was a first round draft pick that had huge upside. Collin Cowgill was also a 25 year old outfielder with some upside (albeit not as much as Ender). And Ryan Cook was a pretty good reliever with some upside. All of this was for a Trevor Cahill that had one pretty good season and a couple of "meh" ones. The stats comparison of Shelby Miller to Trevor Cahill is actually very close for their first few years. But I think that we can all agree that Miller seems like he won’t fall into a never ending abyss like Cahill. In fact his peripherals infer that he will actually maintain success, with a better K/9 and career FIP. But the point here is not to compare those two, but to compare those two trades. What was given up for these two pitchers is actually right in line with the cost of acquiring pitching through a trade.
These trades show that prospects can certainly pan out on different sides of the spectrum as their futures are realized. Sometimes teams include pieces like Ender (players that have major league experience) as a safety net. Yet the prospects in this deal, as well as any other deal, inherently include a level of uncertainty. This is where the trade makes sense for the Diamondbacks. As others have expressed ad nauseam, we know what we are getting with Shelby Miller, but as much as I love Aaron Blair he may not become that type of player. And even if he does become that player, it may not be for a few more years. Dansby Swanson was in fact a first overall pick, but many of the same pundits that are ripping this deal were claiming the 2015 draft class to be relatively weak. Throwing Ender into the deal, we see that the Diamondbacks have traded from positions of relative strengths (pitching prospects, middle infielders, and outfielders). All of this occurred without the Diamondbacks having to get rid of AJ Pollock. Heck, last year Shelby was essentially traded one-for-one for Jason Heyward (I know there were two other smaller pieces). Jason Heyward had a 6.2 bWAR in 2014, while Miller had a 1.6 bWAR. Does this not directly display the value of pitching in the league today?
As with most things in my life, I like to look at things as objectively as possible. It is so easy to get caught up in the emotions of decisions and actions, but it is always better to take a step back and see things from a different angle. I am by no means a baseball expert, and in fact I work at a software company that has absolutely nothing to do with baseball. But in my company, as with many others, decisions are often made by those in charge that are not trivial to others. To this end, it is my belief that Tony and his team are making decisions based on things that maybe we don’t all understand. What I do know though is that I still have faith in this Front Office, and will until there is a reason to believe the decisions they are making are making our team worse. While many are saying this trade is awful for the Dbacks, I will take a step back and try and view this trade through some objective lenses.
- We get a quality pitcher that will help our rotation for the next couple of years, and will be relatively cheap.
- We did not lose AJ Pollock, and only lost Ender off of our major league roster.
- We traded from positions of depth.
- We are making sure that the Greinke signing won’t go to waste.
- We lost a first overall pick that looks like he has some high upside, a quality pitching prospect, and a speedy, good hitting outfielder.
- These prospects had an apparent value to the public that was greater than just Shelby Miller.
- Dansby Swanson is a draft pick that could turn out to be a terrific shortstop.
- Aaron Blair is a prospect that appears to have a very high floor, and could have a very high ceiling.
- Ender was a terrific option for depth on our team, and provided ridiculously good defense.
If we see these pros and cons, and take them for what they are worth, we see a team that traded for a good pitcher. The cost of this pitcher was great, but is also in line with the cost of trading for a good starting pitcher. In my personal opinion, I think that something like Swanson and Blair would have been the value that I would have expected, but adding Ender made the deal a little lopsided. Yet I see a team that has one of the best offenses and defenses doing what it needs to do to improve its pitching in order to contend. The front office sees this as a period of contention because stars like Goldy and Pollock are in their primes and the offense and defense are too good to ignore. Despite the fact that I feel like we may have given up a little bit too much for Miller, if this is the path that brings us to serious contention, then I am all for it. I know there are plenty of differing opinions and factors to discuss here, but the question that I would like to ask is not "Did we give up too much"? but rather "Is this move worth it if we make the playoffs"?