I hate myself for writing that headline. Surely, I’ll have to take some time this week for ‘crafting’, so I can make a dartboard with my face on it. Maybe I’ll start an Etsy page and sell them by the dozens to Red Sox fans across the world. Fortune 500 listings, here I come!
Okay, so my editor came to me with the suggestion to write this article. Which young outfielder should the Boston Red Sox trade? What a horrible thing to do to a rabid Sox fan like myself. Yet, I’m a consummate professional scribe, so I shall take this assignment seriously. Well, mostly seriously. Look, I don’t really want to trade any of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Rusney Castillo, but if I had to make the tough call, Bradley is my bargaining chip.
The Sox have a lot of depth in the outfield. Particularly when you consider prospects like Manuel Margot, Andrew Benintendi, and Garin Cecchini, to name the closest-to-major-league-ready trio. If those prospects don’t develop quickly enough, finding outfield help is pretty easy. Just think of some of this offseason’s top free agents – a slew of guys headed by Justin Upton.
Boston’s biggest needs are all concerned with improving the pitching staff – both starters and the bullpen. So, how did I arrive at the conclusion to trade Jackie Bradley Jr. for Shelby Miller in this excruciating process?
First of all, it was easy to take Castillo out of the equation, as his 7-year, $72.5 million contract makes him harder to move. From a fan perspective, I have the highest hopes he’ll produce at a level that prevents his contract from seeming like a bust. But the gobs of cash owed Castillo act like an anchor as of right now.
Then, I considered the millions of dollars in damage accrued to the Fens in the wake of the riots if Mookie Betts was traded. Not gonna happen! You don’t trade your team leader in WAR and a surefire star. That left Bradley.
Touching again on financial considerations, Miller and Bradley have very similar salaries. Miller made $535,000 in 2015 and Bradley $528,000. Miller is first eligible for arbitration in 2016; Bradley 2017. Free agency doesn’t hit until 2019 for Miller and 2020 for JBJ. Neither player creates a financial burden for the Red Sox or the Atlanta Braves.
I believe the Sox can (to an extent) sell high on Bradley’s second half performance this season. In 60 second-half games, Bradley slashed .267/.352/.539 with 9 HRs and 41 RBIs. He also played great defense in center and right. His UZR (per FanGraphs) was 10.1 and he had four outfield assists in that limited time.
As you can see from the above spray chart, JBJ barely missed any ‘easy’ plays. He and Cameron Maybin would gobble up just about anything and everything hit their way, solidifying an extremely strong up-the-middle defense captained by Andrelton Simmons.
So, why would I want Shelby Miller in return, you ask? Didn’t he have that dreadful 6-17 record? Yes. Also, yes, his 17 losses led the league. But we all know that a pitcher’s win-loss record is a horrible, antiquated measure of his skill. Look, Miller is one of those right-handed pitchers who induce a ton of groundballs and give up very few home runs (6.4% HR/FB rate in 2015), who I think would play nicely at Fenway Park.
Here are some underlying numbers from 2015 that point to high-upside potential from a very affordable, under control pitcher. The following are all career highs set by Miller this last season. An ERA of 3.02, 171 strikeouts, 124 ERA+, 7.5 K/9, 0.6 HR/9, 3.45 FIP, and a WAR of 3.6. For those who weren’t keeping track, that’s seven career-high categories. In closing, let’s look longingly at a graphic of Miller’s career groundball rates by zone (thanks to BrooksBaseball!).
With a strong defense behind him and healthy run support, Miller could reverse his fortunes by pitching in Fenway. Being reunited with former teammate Joe Kelly couldn’t hurt either.