Friday, July 7, 2017

Looking Back At The Shelby Miller Trade.

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

When the Braves dealt Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks, social media exploded with the consensus being that the Braves "won" the trade. However, it might not be as much of a "win" as people claimed it to be.

I won't deny the fact that I was one of the people who claimed this trade to be a huge win for the Braves. After dealing Andrelton Simmons, the Braves still had Ozzie Albies waiting in the wings to play shortstop, but acquiring a prospect like Dansby Swanson helped to ease the loss of Simmons. Swanson came up during the 2016 season and looked to be an immediate superstar for the Braves. Hell, he was featured in commercials for the Braves before he even made his Major League debut. The Braves have marketed him as a superstar, so fans immediately placed unrealistic expectations upon him. He lived up to the hype, slashing .302/.361/.442 in his first 38 games. Many experts labeled him as the sure bet to win Rookie of the Year for the 2017 season, however, he hasn't been able to sustain his amazing start to his career. So far in 2017, he's only slashing .227/.301/.333. Unlike some others, I did expect Swanson to experience a bit of trouble in his first full season in the majors, but his extended poor play leaves him looking less like a "future hall of famer" as some fans called him (I am being for real when I say that) and more like a replacement level shortstop.

With all that said, I'm not ready to give up on the kid just yet. I think he's too talented to toss aside because of a rough first full season in the majors. I think he's talented and deserves his fair shot to prove he can make it at this level. It's just worth pointing out that you can't base a player's career off 38 games in the majors. I'd even say that judging him off of this season is harsh, but his sample size grows by the day and outside of a nice month of June (.306/.355/.418) this season hasn't lived up to the immense hype put on him by the fans of the Braves.

Getting back on track, it's time to look back at the trade that sent Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamonbacks. On paper, the Braves did quite well in this trade. It's hard to argue against acquiring your everyday shortstop and an All-Star outfielder, Ender Inciarte. The third piece of the trade for Atlanta was pitching prospect Aaron Blair. Considered as a "throw in" in this deal, many considered him to be the steal of the trade. However, he's been a disappoint in his time with the Braves organization. In 15 starts with the Braves last season, Blair went 2-7 with an ERA well over well over 7. Win/loss record and ERA aren't the most important stats in the world, but even his strikeouts per nine (5.9) and his walks per nine (4.4) just aren't enough to be effective at the major league level. Not to mention the fact he gave up over 10 hits per nine innings as well. The Braves have kept Blair in the minors so far in 2017 and his numbers aren't improving. So far, he's 6-4 with an ERA over five. For old school fans who like wins, I'd guess they'd be happy with his win/loss record, but just glancing at his stats you can see he has still been largely ineffective.

The brightest spot of this trade for Atlanta has been Ender Inciarte. Inciarte was just named an All-Star, so congrats to him on that feat. He's been the best center fielder the Braves have had since Andruw Jones left to join the Dodgers years ago. His attitude and work ethic are what fans love to see and you could argue that he's the most important position player on the roster. He plays Gold Glove caliber defense and his offense has been essential for the Braves. As I mentioned, I think he is the most valuable player on this team. As the old saying goes, as he goes, the Braves go. Freddie Freeman is the best hitter on the team, but his lack of defense and base running greatly diminishes his overall value. We're talking about all around value here, not just what you can do with the bat. This is bringing back memories of the Trout vs Cabrera case just a few years back. Ender Inciarte is the most exciting player on the Braves and I feel comfortable saying that. Again, that's not to take anything away from Freddie Freeman, but there's only so much a first baseman can do to make things exciting. However, with Freeman playing third base occasionally now, we might get to see some fun "effort" being shown at the hot corner.

Now, was this trade bad for the Diamondbacks? Well, it's a mixed bag. You could argue that dealing Inciarte hurt their lineup, but they have A.J. Pollack and David Peralta on the roster. David Peralta is almost the exact same player as Ender Inciarte. They both put up modest, to above average production at the plate and both play above average defense. In fact, using a blind eye test:

Player A: .311/.360/.473

Player B: .306/.351/.412

Player "A" is David Peralta and player "B" is Ender Inciarte. As I was saying, there's not much difference between the two offensively. So, losing Inciarte didn't really hurt the Diamondbacks as much as you'd want to think. In fact, Peralta has been just a bit better offensively than Inciarte has been this season. Last season, Arizona had Jean Segura at shortstop and he did an amazing job for them. He was later dealt to Seattle for Taijuan Walker, but they did not initially miss Swanson at shortstop. They have used a combination of Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed at shortstop this season and both players have done a great job. Ahmed isn't much of a hitter, but plays above average defense (0.4 dWAR in 53 games) and Owings has been very effective at the plate hitting .283/.323/.490 on the season. While neither player may have the potential upside of Dansby Swanson, they're both doing a capable job playing shortstop.

The final part of this trade is Shelby Miller. It's difficult to quantify him due to his ineffectiveness last season and his short run this season due to injury, but he was pitching more in line to his career numbers this season, so there is hope for the Diamondbacks that he will at least be a decent contributor for them when he is able to pitch again. The Diamondbacks have found success using both Zack Godley (2.8 WAR) and Randall Delgado (0.9 WAR) to make up for the loss of Miller. It's worth noting that Godley was acquired from the Cubs for Miguel Montero, who they recently released. As you can imagine, they would like to have Godley right now given the performance by their rotation so far in 2017. Much like the case for Swanson, we all are just going to have to wait and see what exactly Miller can bring the Diamondbacks. He has the potential to at least be an average major league starter, but again, time will tell with him.

So, looking back at this trade, it's hard to pick a definite "winner" or "loser" at this point. You can say the Braves won the deal just for the sake of getting Swanson and Inciarte, however, Swanson has yet to live up to hype placed upon him by fans in Atlanta. I do think he'll be a fine shortstop moving forward, but he may not be the "future hall of famer" some fans were portraying him as being. As long as he's a league average shortstop, I think Atlanta fans should be happy. Also, it's hard to say that the Diamondbacks really miss Inciarte or Swanson due to them replacing them with Peralta and Owings. Granted, nobody anticipated Owings playing this well in 2017, but he has shown flashes of being a solid player the past few years.

So, who wins and loses this one? Well, that's for you to determine. I have a feeling Atlanta fans will claim they won and Diamondback fans will say it wasn't as bad as first thought. Maybe people can actually let trades play themselves out before claiming a team "won" or "lost?" Then again, staying rational doesn't get clicks... So, I'm guessing that won't be the case moving forward. Oh well.

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