Indians Acquire Miller for Frazier and Three Others as Lucroy Vetoes His Deal
Bob Toth | On 31, Jul 2016
The trade deadline is proving to be far more active than some might have expected for the Cleveland Indians as the team announced the blockbuster addition of reliever Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees for minor leaguers Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen.
The deal came on the heels of another reported trade that would have sent Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Cleveland, but the Brewers backstop exercised the no-trade clause in his contract as the Indians were one of eight teams that he could block a move to.
Various reports have speculated how and why the deal fell apart. There were reports that Lucroy wanted the Indians to decline his team option for the coming season, enabling him to cash in on the free agent market a year sooner. Other reports from Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports claimed that he would not be the starting catcher on the club for 2017 and would have instead been used between catcher, first base, and designated hitter, something that Lucroy did not want.
“I know you guys want [details], but I’m not going to give them,” Lucroy was quoted by Adam McCalvy, MLB.com’s Brewers beat writer. “Some circumstances came up that made me void it, obviously. I think when it comes out, everyone will understand why. That’s it. I’m not going to comment on any specifics, nothing like that, as much as I’d like to. I’m respecting their process and what the Brewers are trying to do in terms of the trade. If that’s going to happen or not, I don’t know. As of right now, I’m still a Brewer and I’m going to be until somebody tells me different.”
When asked to explain how a trade to the top team in the American League conflicted with his previous comments earlier in the year regarding a desire to play for a contender, Lucroy stated “Well, I’m looking for long-term, not short-term gain. Short-term gain is great, but long-term is more important for me and my family’s happiness, and that’s what we’re going to go with, no matter what.”
Given the rumored package of prospects (catcher Francisco Mejia, shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, outfielder Greg Allen, and a possible unconfirmed fourth believed to be Columbus reliever Shawn Armstrong), it is hard to envision the Indians displaying a willingness to part with such a high quantity of players for a two-month rental or for a significant financial exchange to incentivize the two-time All-Star catcher.
Miller will help solve the issues that the Indians have dealt with all season long in their bullpen while reuniting with his former manager, Terry Francona. It gives Cleveland a pair of bona fide closers on the team and lengthens the bullpen out. While he had been the second option in New York behind Aroldis Chapman for most of the season, Miller was 9-for-11 in save opportunities with 16 holds. It will allow Francona to match up differently in the late innings, using setup man Bryan Shaw and current closer Cody Allen in more fluid roles.
Miller was an All-Star for the first time in his career this season and heads to Cleveland with a 6-1 record on the year. He has a minuscule ERA of 1.39 and a WHIP of 0.77. With 77 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings, he is averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings and 11.0 strikeouts per walk on the year. Per Elias, his 1.77 ERA in 104 games over the last two years is the lowest ERA in history for any pitcher who has appeared in at least 100 games for the Yankees.
He is in his eleventh season in the Majors, almost hard to believe given the length of time it took Miller to become the quality back-end specialist that he has evolved into over the last half dozen years. He was a first round pick (sixth overall) by the Detroit Tigers in 2006 out of the University of North Carolina and appeared in eight games that same season at the age of 21.
After working 13 games for the Tigers in 2007, he was dealt to the Florida Marlins as part of the seven-player Miguel Cabrera trade that offseason. He spent three seasons with the Marlins, posting a 10-20 record while used primarily as a starter, but was traded to the Red Sox after the 2010 season. He played one season with Francona in Boston in 2011 and remained with the club as a bullpen option until he was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles at the trade deadline in 2014.
He signed with the Yankees on a four-year, $36 million contract following the 2014 season. The Indians are on the hook for the remainder of the contract, in the range of about $21 million.
As for the players heading out of town in the deal, the Indians gave up two of their top prospects and two of the harder throwing arms in their farm system.
The 21-year-old Frazier had just been promoted to Triple-A Columbus at the beginning of the week after 89 games with the Akron RubberDucks in his first stint at the Double-A level. He was in his fourth year in the Indians organization and was the club’s number one prospect by most evaluators. He had hit .276 over the course of the year with Akron with a .356 on-base percentage, hitting 25 doubles, 13 homers, and 48 RBI. He has hit .238 in five games at Triple-A. He was a midseason minor league All-Star for the first time this season in the Eastern League and attended the All-Star Futures Game in San Diego earlier this month. He was a first round selection by Cleveland (fifth overall) in the 2013 draft.
Sheffield, 20, was one of the top left-handed arms in the Indians’ farm system. He was selected by the club in the 2014 draft at the end of the first round (31st overall). The undersized southpaw had posted a 19-10 record with a 3.55 ERA and 1.39 WHIP across 53 minor league games (49 starts). He was 7-5 this season for High-A Lynchburg in 19 starts, posting a 3.59 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He had struck out 93 batters in 95 1/3 innings on the season.
Heller, a right-handed reliever, is just days short of his 25th birthday on Friday. A 22nd round draft pick in 2013 out of Olivet Nazarene University (Bourbonnais, Illinois), he flirts with triple-digits with his fastball frequently. After spending 2013 at Mahoning Valley, he has split the last few seasons at multiple levels, playing for Lake County and Carolina in 2014, Lynchburg and Akron in 2015, and Akron and Columbus this season. He was 1-0 with seven saves, a 0.55 ERA, and a 0.49 WHIP in 15 games for the RubberDucks before being promoted to Columbus. There, he has posted a 2-2 record with five saves, a 2.49 ERA, and a 1.07 WHIP. He has struck out 48 batters in 41 2/3 innings.
Feyereisen, 23, was a 16th round pick in 2014 out of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Also a right-handed reliever, he worked at Mahoning Valley in 2014 before splitting last season between Lake County and Lynchburg, going 1-1 with 12 saves, a 2.08 ERA, and a 0.97 WHIP. This season with Akron, he was an Eastern League All-Star and has a 4-3 record, five saves, a 2.23 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP while striking out 56 batters in 40 1/3 innings (12.5 strikeouts per nine innings).
In order to make room for Miller on the 40-man roster, Columbus outfielder Joey Butler was designated for assignment. Butler had played 95 games for Triple-A Columbus this season, hitting .238 with a .306 on-base percentage, 14 doubles, two triples, eight homers, and 40 RBI.
The Indians may not be done with the dealing, as they could still look for another bullpen upgrade or a bat for the outfield, third base, or bench. The non-waivers trade deadline expires at 4 PM Monday.
Photo: AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith