Yes, the Miley-Miranda deal hasn't worked out for O's, but that's not the real issue here - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Yes, the Miley-Miranda deal hasn’t worked out for O’s, but that’s not the real issue here

Wade Miley turned in a disastrous performance in Milwaukee on Monday afternoon, allowing seven runs and nine baserunners while recording five outs.

After a strong beginning to the season, Miley is 3-7 with a 5.20 ERA. He had a 2.32 ERA in five April starts, a 3.97 ERA in five May starts, a 7.48 ERA in six June starts and now a 37.80 ERA after his first July start.

Since he was acquired last July in a trade with the Seattle Mariners, Miley is 5-12 with a 5.58 ERA in 28 games for the Orioles. Adding together last year’s two-month salary, this season’s and an option buyout – assuming the Orioles don’t pick up his $12 million option for 2018 – the Orioles will have spent $11-plus million on Miley if he parts ways with the team at year’s end.

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Meanwhile, the man the Orioles traded for Miley, lefty Ariel Miranda, is 7-3 with a 3.82 ERA in 17 games for the Mariners, is making $541,000 in 2017 and can’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season.

So, this should be the point in the column where I hammer Orioles’ executive vice president Dan Duquette for a terrible trade, for getting rid of another pitching prospect for a player that isn’t helping the Orioles, or at least isn’t a long-term solution.

Well, I’m not fully going there – as easy as that jump is to make.

Obviously, this trade has not worked out so far and it may not. And Duquette has to be responsible for that.

But there needs to be a little perspective here – this isn’t Jake Arrieta 2.0, it’s probably not even Zach Davies 2.0. What it is, is fair warning as to what may happen at this month’s trade deadline if the Orioles are buyers.

First, the history lesson: Since the Orioles had permission to take on Miley’s salary, it was a move they had to make last July. That’s what I wrote then, and that’s what I still believe.

Also, what I wrote then was that it wasn’t a needle-turner or a difference-maker. That it might have no positive impact whatsoever. Easy to stand by that, too.

To be forthright, I endorsed the deal on a few fronts: The Orioles didn’t have a left-handed starter at the time, they needed to improve their rotation for the stretch run, they didn’t have any actual blue-chip prospects to acquire a top-of-the-rotation arm and there weren’t many quality starters available on the trade market.

That’s probably gonna be the same song again this year – except the left-handed Miley is already pitching every fifth day for the Orioles, as uncomfortable as you may be with that fact.

There was nothing in Miley’s track record versus the American League East or during that 2016 season which suggested he would be the answer to the Orioles’ prayers.

Miley looked like a durable lefty, who would struggle some at Camden Yards, probably pitch to a high-4s/5-ish ERA and go though some ups and downs – basically be a fifth starter.

As for Miranda, he was a swingman with an ERA just under 4 in Triple-A.

I was told Miranda was a fringe big leaguer by people – in and out of the Orioles’ system — who saw him pitch in the minors. And though he appears to be more than that, we’re not talking considerably so.

I – and the Orioles — may have grossly misjudged Miranda, but I doubt it.

Yes, Miranda’s 3.82 ERA is much better than Miley’s, currently. But Miranda’s ERA is 2.56 in eight games at spacious Safeco Field and 5.48 in nine games on the road. I’m not convinced Miranda would have an ERA under four (or five) in the AL East while pitching half of his games at Camden Yards.

And before we say that the Orioles gave up a “prospect” for Miley, let’s remember that Miranda is a Cuban defector who is already 28. He’s only two years younger than Miley; this isn’t a 23-year-old with unlimited upside. Or a young guy with a tick of upside like Davies.

Certainly, I’d take a mulligan on the Miranda-Miley trade, but it would be because of money and controllability, not performance.

The bottom line here is that the Orioles didn’t have the minor league prospects to truly improve their starting pitching last July – and that hasn’t changed for this July or this upcoming offseason.

And, yes, that part is on Duquette, who has not built the deep, prospect-rich farm system he predicted when he was hired (although organization/ownership philosophy of not spending even an average amount on international amateurs hampers the level of talent Duquette can mine).

But let’s not shake our heads and mutter “Ariel Miranda” under our collective breath every time Miley delivers a clunker.

The decision to trade for Miley last year was a minor roll of the dice that made sense at the time. It didn’t look like it would be impactful then, and it hasn’t been.

The problem here isn’t that the Orioles traded Miranda for Miley. Or even that Miley has negated his stretches of solid contribution with disasters like Monday to post a 5-plus ERA since last August.

It’s that these are the moves the Orioles are forced to orchestrate, given their lack of top-shelf minor leaguers and/or their inability to draft and develop consistent starting pitching. And that makes another July of trade talk painful, particularly if the Orioles decide they are buyers.

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