Exactly two years ago today, the Orioles traded left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox for lefty reliever Andrew Miller.
It was an important deal for the Orioles; they needed to shore up their bullpen, and Miller did that, allowing just three earned runs in 20 innings in the regular season (1.35 ERA). He also was nearly perfect in 7 1/3 innings in the postseason. That was particularly big in the American League Division Series, when the Orioles won a battle of the bullpens against the Detroit Tigers.
The Orioles didn’t want to give up Rodriguez in the deal, but the Tigers badly wanted Miller, too, and the only way the Orioles could keep him away from Detroit was to give up Rodriguez.
Miller, of course, left as a free agent at the end of 2014 and joined the New York Yankees for a four-year, $36 million deal, an unprecedented contract for a non-closing reliever.
Rodriguez has made 30 starts for Boston with mixed results, a 12-10 record and 4.59 ERA. But he’s only 23, and under team control for years. Meanwhile, the Orioles haven’t had a left-hander in the rotation all season.
I bring all of this up not just because it’s the anniversary of that deal (one I would do again, by the way, because Miller did make a big difference in that pennant push).
But because Miller is in the news again. He was traded today from the Yankees to the AL-Central-leading Cleveland Indians for four prospects, including two upper echelon commodities, outfielder Clint Frazier and lefty Justus Sheffield (who, but the way, was drafted by the Indians with the compensatory pick they received when Ubaldo Jimenez signed with the Orioles).
So that’s 4-for-1 for Miller two years after being 1-for-1.
There is a major difference, of course. Miller was a rental back in 2014, and it seemed highly unlikely that the Orioles were going to re-sign him knowing that Miller was going to get a huge (and deserved) payday and Zach Britton was already establishing himself as closer.
This time, Miller, 32, is not a rental. He is signed through 2018, so the Indians have improved themselves for the stretch run and, theoretically, for two more seasons after this one. So, yes, he should command more in the trade market than he did in 2014.
Then again, remember, Miller is due more than $20 million through the length of his contract that is now Cleveland’s. That amount seems OK now, but when the Yankees signed the deal they were crushed for giving such an exorbitant contract to a setup man.
The Yankees get the last laugh here. Miller complied a 1.77 ERA in 107 innings, made an All Star team, finished 10th in a Cy Young voting and now has brought them four prospects – all for about $16 million.
The Indians have improved themselves greatly – even with Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy vetoing a trade to Cleveland earlier Sunday. And so have the Yankees (who also dealt away reliever Aroldis Chapman and dealt for reliever Tyler Clippard).
And that’s what the trade deadline is all about: Teams trying to improve themselves for the final two months or for the future. Or both, in certain situations.
We’re still waiting on what the Orioles will do by 4 p.m. Monday. I still believe they’ll add a starting pitcher; and it likely will be someone that most fans will not be excited about it.
But we’ve now seen with Miller, Chapman, Andrew Cashner, Drew Pomeranz and others changing hands, the price this summer is exceptionally steep for quality players. Even when their quality is questioned.
Miller, who has now been traded four times since 2007, is of major quality. Arguably one of the best relievers in baseball. His price tag was four prospects, including two projected to be better than anyone in the Orioles’ system.
That’s the reality of this trade market.