Lefty Wade Miley has signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, and I know there is a collective sigh of relief from the Orioles fan base.
Miley spent one and a half seasons with the Orioles and put up some frightful numbers: 10-20 record, 5.75 ERA in 43 starts. Last year, he led the majors in walks with 93 in 157 1/3 innings. Washington’s Gio Gonzalez was second overall with 79 in 201 innings.
So, yeah, Miley was not good in 2017 (or in 2016 when he had a 6.17 ERA for the Orioles in 11 starts). And not good is being kind.
But the Orioles still had some tepid interest in bringing Miley back – it goes with manager Buck Showalter’s quip about having value if you’re “left-handed and breathing,” – but not enough to match a minor league deal from Milwaukee, that, according to USA Today, is worth $2.5 million if he’s a big leaguer and as much as $5.7 million if he makes 29 starts with the Brewers.
That’s a minor league deal with good money attached if the 31-year-old has success or if the Brewers just need to roll a veteran out there every fifth day.
Miley going elsewhere really isn’t the news here. Tears likely won’t be shed by anyone involved.
This is worth revisiting for Orioles’ fans, though, because of what it tells us about what the pitching market, and what we should expect going forward.
Miley had a rough year and couldn’t throw strikes, but he was pitching in the American League, against the AL East and at Camden Yards (though Miley was actually better at home in 2017, a 5.07 ERA in 14 starts, versus a 6.05 ERA in 18 road starts). He’s definitely worth a shot for another team, especially one in the NL.
If the going rate for a veteran lefty like Miley is a minor league deal, well, that’s significant. Miley has a veteran agent that doesn’t panic. You have to assume this was the best deal on the table and the belief was it wasn’t going to get much better.
Miley isn’t the only veteran lefty to sign a minor league deal this week. Hector Santiago, who also had a rough 2017 partially marred by injury, signed one with the Chicago White Sox.
I’m not breaking news here when I say the pitching market is seriously depressed.
And that makes me wonder if remaining mid-tier starters such as Chris Tillman will have to settle for minor league deals. The Orioles say they want him back, but to the best of my knowledge they haven’t offered him a big league deal yet.
You have to assume these types of players will start coming off the board soon. Guys who could help, but have question marks following them into 2018.
So, if the Orioles were aggressive, offering big league deals (read: guaranteed money), to a couple of these pitchers, they might have a better chance of landing them now.
And landing them now is pretty important. Spring training’s length is designed to get pitchers ready, not hitters. How many times have we seen solid pitchers – including Tillman in 2017 – struggle in-season when they haven’t had a full spring training to continue their routine?
These are the days that the Orioles need to strike – and strike with major-league offers. In December, the Orioles gave minor league right-hander Michael Kelly a big league deal and he has never pitched in the majors (and has a 5.69 ERA in 23 Triple-A games). They have four Rule 5 guys taking up 40-man roster spots. There is room here, despite a full 40-man roster.
Now, I still don’t expect the Orioles to land one of the big three starters that remain on the free-agent market – Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. The Orioles have not been aggressive in courting those and there is still plenty of competition for their services on deals the Orioles would still likely view as excessive. So, you can realistically forget about them.
But Andrew Cashner? Jason Vargas? Tillman? Jamie Garcia?
These are pitchers who could help in 2018, and likely will go to the team that gets most aggressive now.
Yes, the Orioles might be able to wait a little longer and get an even better financial deal from the names above or some others. But they’ve waited plenty. The market is pro-team right now. And it doesn’t appear that it will revert to pro-player in the next few weeks.
Miley, for all his warts in Baltimore, is a major league pitcher taking a minor league deal. The message is clear. The Orioles better hear it soon.