Today the Mariners traded for Wade Miley. On its own, that’s not an inflammatory sentence. Miley is a league-average caliber starter, and seems like a guy who could slot in the middle or bottom of the Mariners rotation pretty easily. He’s entering his age 29 season, and he’s reasonably cost-controlled, with three years, $18.8 guaranteed remaining, and a $12 million option for 2018 with a $500K buyout.
What makes the Wade Miley trade bad is that the Mariners got worse, and more expensive making the trade. The team traded Carson Smith and Roenis Elias for Miley.
Steamer has Wade Miley at about 1.8 WAR projected for 2015. They have Roenis Elias at 1.0, but in about 45 fewer innings, so from a rate perspective he’s not so far behind Miley. Elias is nearly two years younger than Miley, and has flashed brilliance at points in his brief MLB career. Though his MLB career has been brief, that also means that Elias has five years of team control left. He’ll cost basically the rookie minimum this season. He’ll probably cost the rookie minimum next season.
The most painful part of the trade is losing Carson Smith. I’m hardly one to want my favorite team to pay for closers, and I recognize their disproportionate perceived value compared to their actual value in some cases, but the Mariners didn’t get enough for Carson Smith. Smith does the things you want from a closer. He misses bats, and he prevents home runs. He prevents home runs by missing bats, but he also prevents them by inducing grounders at a high rate. Carson Smith may never become an elite closer. In fact, his 50th percentile outcome is probably something like an average setup man. It’s not because there is anything wrong with Carson Smith, but becoming eliteness is rare; that’s why it’s elite. Smith has all the makings of what could become an elite reliever. He also had the fifth lowest xFIP among qualified relievers last year. He had the sixth highest ground ball rate. He had the fourth lowest home run rate. He already has a near-elite season under his belt, and he’s entering only his age 26 season.
That’s tough to give up for a guy who will probably cost more in the next three years than Smith and Elias combined. And Jonathan Aro, though perhaps a reliever with some promise, isn’t enough to make up for the talent disparity between Miley and the combination of Smith and Elias, let alone the amount of financial flexibility the Mariners lost replacing Elias with Miley as a rotation candidate.
I should be clear. I like Jerry Dipoto. I’m very happy with the direction he seems to want to take this Mariners team. He’s committed to improving the defense, specifically the outfield defense, without torpedoing the offense. He’s committed to adding pitching, but he hasn’t appeared willing to overextend for that pitching.
I didn’t love the Brad Miller trade. I believe that it made the team better, but not because I think that Miller is bad. I think Miller is the best player in that trade. But the Mariners have shortstops who are ready to contribute at the major league level. The Rays seem to have gotten substantially more value in the deal, and that grinds at me a little bit.
We can’t ever know what exactly Dipoto had at his disposal in terms of alternative trade routes. The shortstop market is weak, though, and with all the information that we have, which is admittedly not as much as Dipoto has, the deal favors the Rays, at least probably.
But today’s trade doesn’t make sense.
I mean, it’s possible that Dipoto knows something we don’t. Actually, that’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever written. It’s CERTAIN that Dipoto knows many things about Smith and Elias we don’t. Maybe Smith is a jerk. Maybe Elias is a jerk. Maybe Smith and Elias are both jerks, and they spend the entire offseason prank calling their teammates. Maybe the team sees something that past scouts haven’t seen in Miley. Maybe they see something that past scouts have seen, but think they have a better way of leveraging it. These things are all theoretically possible, but all relatively improbable.
All we can go off of is the information that we have, and it’s hard to not think that this trade stinks based on that information.