The Baltimore Orioles acquired lefty reliever Andrew Miller from the Boston Red Sox for left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez. Miller has posted a 2.34 ERA for the Red Sox out of the bullpen this year, has a 40.6 percent strike out rate and a 7.7 percent walk rate. Miller, a free agent after this season, was largely believed to be the best available bullpen arm on the market. According to reports from the local Orioles beat writers, the biggest asset the team was looking to acquire was a lefty that could get both left handed hitters and right handed hitters out which Miller is extremely adept at doing. Rodriguez, who has spent parts of the last two seasons at AA, currently has a 4.79 ERA with a 19.1 percent strike out rate and a 9.5 percent walk rate for the Baysox. The 21-year-old Rodriguez has been struggling all season as he has dealt with injuries and ineffective performance.
Andrew Miller is an excellent reliever and gives the Orioles a 1-2-3 punch that not many other bullpens can match with Darren O’Day and Zach Britton. His arsenal consists of a 93 MPH fast ball , an 81 MPH slider and a 84 MPH change up. He primarily throws the fast ball and slider and will mix in the change to right handed hitters. According to fWAR, Miller has been the 12th best reliever in the all of baseball this year, which is actually better than both O’Day and Britton. He has an above average ground ball rate and the 5th best strike out rate of all relievers. On top of that, unlike Brian Matusz, Miller can get both lefties and righties out as he has held both under a .200 batting average this year. Furthermore, Miller has been a quality reliever for the past three seasons and fantastic in the last two. Buck will use both Miller and O’Day interchangeably based on rest and match-ups, he will be a great tool for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.
Eduardo Rodriguez was largely considered the Orioles third or fourth best prospect coming into the season. With the graduation of Gausman, he was second or third. He has struggled at AA this year and has had injuries keep him sidelined. Rodriguez has a 91 to 93 MPH fast ball with a slider and a change up that are considered average. The Venezuelan lefty was signed by the Orioles on the international market and has solidly worked his way up the minors. Still young, Rodriguez has the potential to be a mid to back-end of the rotation starter.
As far as the deal itself is concerned, Miller was the best relief pitcher on the market and the deadline always seems to increase the price of relievers. There are two reasons for this. High quality relievers are hard to find and relievers are more important in the playoffs than they are in the regular season. This is also for two reasons, as relievers will pitch a larger percentage of innings in the playoffs than they normally would in the regular season, and those playoff innings will be high leverage innings.
Rodriguez is a good prospect and a decently high price to pay for a reliever. However, the Orioles depth in the minors is in pitching, regardless of Bundy’s lackluster performance during his rehab so far or Hunter Harvey‘s strained flexor mass. The deal did not surprise me in that I assumed any deal the Orioles would make would involve Rodriguez. Yet, for solely a reliever the price seems steep, even for one of Miller’s quality. Miller certainly makes the Orioles a better team right now, but Rodriguez is a quality arm and was the 61st ranked prospect going into 2014 according to Baseball Prospectus. I would not say the Orioles outright won this trade, but I would not say they lost it either. It makes the team better now and mortgages a piece of the future.
When it comes to baseball trade deadline strategy, baseball is about winning championships. It is not prospect fantasy camp where all you do is trade away talent at the major league level for prospects in a never ending cycle of never thinking about now. In that sense, Dan Duquette is a fine General Manager. He constantly tinkers. In each and every one of his seasons the 40-man roster has been better. I would take the 40-man of this year’s Orioles over the 2012 and 2013 rosters. With that being said, Duquette seems to target the 20 to 40 roster spots, or maybe the 15 to 4o roster spots, instead of the top end of the roster. He attempts to improve the team through depth and trying to hit a home run on a cheap deal.
In the grand scheme of things, Andrew Miller does not make the Orioles world series favorites. In fact, even before and especially after the deadline, the Orioles will not be favored in a playoff series against any of the AL teams currently set to the make the playoffs. The Orioles already have a 75 percent chance to the make the playoffs and a 51.4 percent chance to win the division. Andrew Miller improves those odds marginally, if at all. The team is currently playing it’s best baseball during the hardest part of the schedule. Therefore, why trade for Andrew Miller when the playoffs are in sight and the division crown not far behind that? Why attack the minor league depth for marginal help in the regular season and and maybe a little more help in the playoffs?
That is why I have been calling for a strategy of either do nothing or do something big. Jon Lester would have made a difference for the Orioles with Lester-Gausman-Tillman making a nice 1-2-3 in a playoff series. Maybe Gausman would have had to go in the deal to get Lester, we will never know. However, the point is that something big improves their chances to win a world series or even a playoff series. A middling move like trading for Andrew Miller does not overwhelmingly improve their chances. Therefore, doing nothing made more sense now than it has in the past for the Orioles. This would have allowed the team to continue to build depth and create a more sustainable farm system. Anything can happen in a short series in the playoffs, but having better players usually helps. The Orioles did not add much and gave up some nice upside to do it, not exactly the kind of win now move that the team needed to make and gave up too much for a move that will not help in the long run. I like the player, I do not like the move.