Hot Stove Trade Analysis
Seattle Mariners Receive:
LHP Wade Miley
RHP Jonathan Aro
Boston Red Sox Receive:
RHP Carson Smith
LHP Roenis Elias
The Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners pulled off a trade on December 7th that included an elite reliever, two left-handed starting pitchers and a middle reliever. These are things every body wants that can be difficult or expensive to find and yet it wasn't a blip on the baseball media's radar. Lets break down the players, the reasons for the trade and the impact on the two teams going forward.
The Player Breakdown
The Seattle Mariners Side:
Wade Miley, LHP
Boston Red Sox - 2015
IP 193.2-- SO's 147-- ERA 4.46-- WHIP 1.37
GB% 48.8%--HR/FB 9.2%--K/9 6.83--BB/9 2.97
Arizona Diamondbacks - 2014:
IP 201.1 -- SO's 183 -- ERA 4.34 -- WHIP 1.40
GB% 51.1% - HR/FB% 13.9% - K/9 8.18 - BB/9 3.35%
If you look at the raw numbers, with the exception of WHIP, Miley was worse n 2015 than 2014. But, if you look at the advanced metrics and adjust for the transition from the National League to the American League Miley is improving. Every advanced metric was better in 2015 with the Red Sox than with the Diamondbacks in 2014 with the exception of his K/9, but he had to face the designated hitter in the AL East with the Green Monster over his right shoulder, so that’s not a surprise.
The Mariners get a viable starter who will bring those improved metrics to a much friendlier pitchers park that is under team control for two years (along with a club option of $12 million or $500,000 buyout) and $14.75 million.
To give you some perspective, J.A. Happ signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for three years and $36 million, meaning the Mariners could have Miley for three years and $26.75 million for the same period the Jays have Happ for $36 million. Happ pitched for Seattle in 2015 and had similar advanced metrics to Miley while benefitting from pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League and all the statistical and coaching benefits that come from learning under one of the best pitching coaches in baseball.
RHP Jonathan Aro
2015 Season Stats:
Double-A: IP 22.1 -- SO 19 - BB 8 - ERA 2.82 - WHIP 1.03
Triple-A: IP 51.2 - SO 53 - BB 10 - ERA 3.14 - WHIP 1.03
MLB: IP 10.1 - SO 8 - BB 4 - ERA 6.97 - WHIP 1.84
Aro has the repertoire to pitch in a major league bullpen but doesn't profile as a high-leverage, impact reliever. He offers a mid-90s fastball with a change up and slider that are both average to slightly above. At 25 years old there isn't a lot of upside for the Mariners to dream on, but Aro should be able to contribute right away in the sixth and seventh innings, possibly as a swing man that can pitch multiple innings.
The Boston Red Sox Side:
RHP Carson Smith
IP 70 - SO 92 - BB 22 - ERA 2.31 - WHIP 1.01 - Holds 22
K/9 11.83 - BB/9 2.83 - GB% 64.8% - HR/FB 6.9%
The gem of the deal for the Red Sox and the player with the most impact potential is Carson Smith. In his first full major league season he was rated by Fangraphs as the fifth most valuable reliever in baseball with a WAR of 2.1, ahead of other relievers like Andrew Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Wade Davis, Craig Kimbrel and Jeurys Familia. His K/9 of 11.83 was twelfth and his HR/FB was 6.9%, both filthy numbers. With those kinds of peripherals Smith could be an elite closer or one of the best eighth inning relievers in the game along with names like Wade Davis and Dellin Betances.
LHP Roenis Elias
IP 163.2 - SO 143 - ERA 3.85 - WHIP 1.31
K/9 7.86 - BB/9 3.52 - GB% 45.4% - HR/FB 10.1%
Triple-A: IP 61.1 - SO 47 - ERA 7.34 - WHIP 1.60
MLB: IP 115.1 - SO 97 - ERA 4.14 - WHIP 1.30
K/9 7.57 - BB/9 3.43 - GB% 44.2% - HR/FB 12.3%
Elias doesn't have the arsenal to be more than an innings eater in the best of circumstances and when you combine that with a move to the AL East to pitch at Fenway Park, the move probably forces him to be a swing man or lefty specialist.
You can never have too much pitching and the inclusion of Elias proves that point. He won't be a pitcher Sox fans want to rely on to win them a pennant, but if injuries deplete their depth, Elias can start in the short term.
This trade looks like a perfect Fantasy baseball trade. The Mariners and red Sox swapped left handed starters and right handed relievers; one side received the better starter and the other the better reliever. Nice and easy, balanced and fair, but the Red Sox got the only impact player, Carson Smith.
In these days of advanced metrics and sabermetric algorithms, 70 innings of relief aren't thought to be more valuable than 170 innings from even a league average starter, but the reality is that if you want to contend for titles Carson Smith (2.1 WAR - fifth best among relievers) is going to be more of a difference maker than a fourth or fifth starter like Wade Miley (2.6 WAR).
Elias and Aro are depth parts of the trade, but the Red Sox got the better value here as well. Elias can be a league average starter if they need him while Aro profiles, at his best, as a multi-inning middleman.
At the time of this trade the Mariners thought that Hisashi Iwakuma was signing elsewhere as a free agent and he did agree to a contract with the Dodgers before he failed a physical. A November trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Nate Karns and with the Red Sox for Miley filled out their starting rotation for 2016. If they knew Iwakuma was going to re-sign in Seattle I suspect the Miley deal never happens.
James Paxton has struggled to stay healthy and prospect phenom Taijuan Walker has struggled to pitch consistently, but if they traded for Nate Karns and re-signed Iwakuma in November then the Mariners wouldn't have needed to trade for Miley in December. Roenis Elias would have suited them well as a sixth or seventh starter, but when it looked like Elias may be their fourth or fifth, trading for Miley became necessary. The Dodgers helped the Red Sox move the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles and now they helped them sneak Carson Smith to Boston.
From the Red Sox side, they still have needs in their rotation, but they lack quality, not quantity. One way that teams are trying to compensate for a weak starting rotation is by loading up on power, late inning relievers and Carson Smith might be one of the best in the game. The Red Sox have the resources and the minor league prospects to sign a free agent starter or trade for an upgrade in their rotation, but relievers like Smith aren't available and are normally costly when they are.
This trade helps the Mariners get through 162 games but there are a lot of ways to do that during the offseason. The trade helps the Red Sox dominate the late innings and contend in October and November, which isn't so easy to accomplish.