Looking Back on the Andrew Miller Trade
Bob Toth | On 01, Sep 2016
A month is not nearly enough time to analyze winners and losers of Major League trades, but after more than four weeks with him on the roster, the Cleveland Indians have to be feeling pretty good about the return that they have gotten from left-hander Andrew Miller.
Miller was not the only player moved, as the Indians had to give up four players, two of whom were top prospects in the organization, in order to acquire the services of the reliever for the rest of this season and each of the next two years.
The All-Star southpaw has been everything that the Indians could have dreamed of when they pulled the trigger on the July 31 trade that brought Miller to Cleveland.
The 31-year-old is 1-0 in 12 games with the Indians with three saves and four holds. He has a 1.23 ERA and a 0.55 WHIP with Cleveland and a 1.35 ERA and 0.72 WHIP for the season. He has struck out 24 batters over 14 2/3 innings of a dozen appearances and has walked just one. He came to Cleveland with an 11.0 strikeout-to-walk rate while with the Yankees.
Miller surpassed the 100-strikeout mark on Tuesday night, the third straight season that he has done so. With two more strikeouts, he will match his career high, set in 2014 when he pitched for Boston and Baltimore.
While his numbers have been off-the-charts good, it is how the Indians bullpen has performed as a new unit with his presence that makes the early returns on the substantial investment a positive one.
Miller has given manager Terry Francona much more versatility in the back end of his bullpen, allowing him to match up more fluidly in the late innings. Miller gives the Indians a second arm fully capable of being an everyday closer, allowing Francona to use right-handers Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw how he sees fit in the late innings.
While Allen has had the bulk of the save opportunities in his first month with Miller as his bullpen mate, the closer role is a flexible one in Cleveland. It has enabled Francona to go to guys for more than the customary inning of work, knowing that someone else in the back of the ‘pen is capable and qualified to notch saves when the time comes, whether it be that game or in games down the road.
In 12 games in August, seventh and eighth inning man Shaw worked eleven innings, striking out nine, giving up eight hits, and walking three. Opposing hitters hit just .222 while Shaw posted a 0.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He earned his first save of the season in Wednesday night’s victory over Minnesota.
Allen was tagged with a blown save and loss on August 17 when he allowed five runs on four hits in one-third of an inning in a fluky display on the mound. Several well-placed hits and a walk put runners on base before Adam Eaton’s ninth inning grand slam. In the other nine games that he pitched in the month, he did not allow a run and had given up just two hits and six walks over nine and one-third innings with 14 strikeouts.
As for the bullpen as a whole, they are 6-1 in the last 30 days with a 2.48 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP with 98 strikeouts and 34 walks in 94 1/3 innings of work. This includes a 1.10 ERA and a 0.55 WHIP for Dan Otero in 12 games, a 1.38 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP for Zach McAllister in 12 games, and the second-best batting average against in the bullpen in the month, a .143 mark by Jeff Manship, who had a 0.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in seven outings.
What about the players who left the organization? What have they done in their new homes?
Fourth-year pro Clint Frazier had just five games of Triple-A action in under his belt at Columbus when he was dealt to the Yankees. New York assigned him to their Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, where he had slashed .229/.282/.375 in 24 games with two doubles, three triples, two homers, six RBI, and 16 runs scored.
On Sunday, the outfielder made his second trip to the disabled list this season with a right hamstring strain. He left the RailRiders’ game on Saturday in the eleventh inning for a pinch-hitter.
Frazier is MLB.com’s 19th ranked prospect and number one in the Yankees organization after the trade as the club restocked its farm system at the deadline. He will turn 22 on Tuesday.
Left-hander Justus Sheffield may be putting up the best numbers of the bunch so far. In five starts for High-A Tampa of the Florida State League, the 20-year-old has dominated all of the new faces in the league. He is 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He has held opposing hitters to a .157 average and has struck out 27 batters and walked ten in 26 innings while not giving up a home run.
He won his first start with the Tampa Yankees on August 5, striking out eleven and walking one in six innings of work while allowing just one run on two hits. He followed that outing with another one-run effort over five and one-third innings in a no-decision before throwing six scoreless innings of three-hit ball on August 16 in his second win.
He took his first loss of the year with Tampa in his next outing, when he gave up four runs (three earned) in three and two-thirds innings with three hits and three walks allowed. He bounced right back on track on Sunday, however, as he threw five innings of scoreless one-hit baseball while walking three and striking out five to earn his third win since the trade.
The former first round pick by the Indians in the 2014 draft was 7-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 19 starts at High-A Lynchburg in the Carolina League. He was previously 9-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 26 starts for Single-A Lake County in 2015 and 3-1 with a 4.79 ERA in eight games in the Arizona League in his debut effort in 2014. He is the seventh-highest ranked prospect in the Yankees organization, according to MLBPipeline.com.
Editor’s note: Sheffield was promoted to Trenton on Friday, September 2, to make his first professional start at the Double-A level.
Flame-throwing right-hander Ben Heller completed the climb from Double-A to the Majors this season when he took the mound for the Yankees on August 26 against the Baltimore Orioles. He threw a perfect inning, throwing eleven of 16 pitches for strikes. His second outing, also against the O’s, was a little less positive as he allowed two runs on three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. He gave up a single to Manny Machado and a homer to Mark Trumbo (his 40th) before getting his first Major League strikeout, getting slugger Chris Davis swinging. He had a busy appearance on Tuesday night, giving up a hit, a walk, and a hit by pitch while striking out the only batter he retired, but bounced back with a perfect inning on Wednesday to earn his first Major League win as the Yankees defeated the Kansas City Royals.
Heller began this season, his fourth as a pro, with his second stint at the Double-A level after finishing the 2015 season there. He appeared in 15 games for the ‘Ducks, saving seven games in seven chances while posting a 0.55 ERA, a 0.49 WHIP, and holding opposing hitters to a .057 batting average. He was promoted to Triple-A Columbus on May 21 and was 2-2 with five saves, a 2.49 ERA, and a 1.07 WHIP before the trade to the Yankees.
He made three scoreless appearances for the RailRiders before his contract was selected by the Yankees. He spent a couple of days with the club before being optioned back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre without making an appearance. He was recalled ten days later.
The 25-year-old reliever was selected by the Indians in the 22nd round of the 2013 draft out of Olivet Nazarene.
J.P. Feyereisen was an All-Star for the first time in his pro career for the RubberDucks this season, his first one at the Double-A level. The 23-year-old was 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP, and a .205 batting average against in 33 appearances for the ‘Ducks while saving five games in as many opportunities. The hard-throwing righty struck out 56 batters in just 40 1/3 innings.
The Yankees kept him at the Double-A level, adding him to the roster of the Trenton Thunder after the trade. He pitched in seven games over the course of August while the Thunder used him each time in multi-inning appearances. He was a perfect 3-0 in those outings with a 0.60 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP, and he held opposing hitters to a .143 average while striking out 19 in 15 innings. He made his first trip back to his former home of Canal Park on August 17, when he allowed a hit and struck out three in two innings of work.
The Indians’ 16th round pick of the 2014 draft and third-year pro is a combined 7-3 on the season in 40 games with five saves, a 1.79 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, and a .190 batting average against with 75 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings pitched.
It is far too soon to call either team the clear winner in this blockbuster trade, but one month in, it looks like both sides have come away happy and better off for the future.