Why You Don’t Trade Brad Miller

Jeff Sullivan · December 9, 2014 at 5:55 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Oh, you can trade Brad Miller for Steven Souza. That’s fine. That’s filling a need. You can trade Brad Miller in a good trade. A good trade probably involves a long-term piece coming back. I don’t like the idea of discarding Miller for a year or two of a guy. I’ll go on to explain! This post is not over.

Right now there are two Mariner trade pieces that get talked about. You’ve got the Mariners trading Taijuan Walker, or you’ve got the Mariners trading Brad Miller. Maybe you’ve got the Mariners trading them both! But those are the two, as rumors circle that the M’s want a right fielder or something else. There are six team-controlled years of Taijuan Walker to look forward to. Brad Miller, five years. That’s one fewer year, but then Walker’s more likely to miss a full year because something got achy. And I don’t want to trade either one.

It isn’t true that Miller is redundant. Chris Taylor hasn’t proven anything. He certainly hasn’t proven more than Brad Miller has. And while Baseball America is apparently pretty high on Ketel Marte, I wouldn’t bet five dollars on Ketel Marte ever hitting, so what appears like three upper-level shortstops is really maybe one or none combined. If the season were to start today, you’d probably have Taylor starting at short most games. What do you do with Miller? That’s where the fun begins.

Shannon wrote the other day about how the Mariners and some other teams occasionally see Miller as an outfielder. He has a tiny bit of practice experience out there and the reviews were generally positive. We all know he can run, and while there are concerns about both his throwing accuracy and his footwork, it’s funny what happens when you move to the lawn. You don’t have to switch so much between long strides and choppy steps, and when you’re throwing, you get to set your feet without throwing off balance or while moving in the other direction. Brad Miller could very well be a big-league shortstop, but he also has the tools to be a big-league outfielder. And because of his speed, he has the tools to be a big-league center fielder.

So now let’s think about this. The Mariners don’t just need one outfielder. They need two outfielders, unless you believe in James Jones or Stefen Romero. And it’s by no means a sure thing that Willie Bloomquist will be 100% around the start of the year, given what he went through. If the Mariners were to trade Miller for an outfielder, they need an outfielder. If they were to end up with an outfielder, Miller could work as another one. Or Miller could even be the main guy.

The Mariners say they want a righty or a switch-hitter, and that’s why they’re focused, apparently, on Melky Cabrera. That’s all fine. If they don’t trade for Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes, they could just sign Cabrera. Or they could sign Alex Rios. Or they could swing a little trade for, say, Justin Ruggiano or Marlon Byrd or Drew Stubbs or, god help us, Dayan Viciedo. Depending on the ability of the outfielder brought in, you’d determine how much outfield time Miller could get. But Miller can serve in a useful, versatile role in 2015, and then he could be of great use down the road.

For next year, if the Mariners found a right fielder without trading Miller, Miller could be a dual fourth outfielder and backup to the infield backup. It helps to have Nelson Cruz at least not literally incapable of handling an outfield corner. Miller would make for good depth and also valuable Taylor insurance in case he has a rough go of things. Crucially, Miller will cost barely more than the league minimum. As you pile up contracts like Felix’s, Cano’s, and Cruz’s, you have an increasing need for cheap regulars, even if they aren’t particularly great.

And at issue here isn’t just 2015. The Mariners’ center fielder is Austin Jackson. Jackson is lined up to be not the Mariners’ center fielder in 2016. Which is a problem, because the Mariners don’t have a center fielder in the system. Alex Jackson is super neat, but he’s probably not a center fielder. Austin Wilson is only a little less neat, but he’s not a center fielder. James Jones might be a center fielder, but he isn’t and won’t be a good one. There’s no reason for me to bring up Jesus Montero in this paragraph but boy has that guy sucked. The Mariners absolutely aren’t making moves right now for the sake of 2016 and beyond, but there’s a compelling argument to be made that the Mariners’ long-term center fielder, after Jackson, could be Brad Miller. I have to think he’s good enough to handle the responsibilities, and so, how eager should one be to see Miller get dealt?

If you take Miller away from short, for the most part, it will do a number on his trade value, but at the same time, not everyone is convinced that Miller is a long-term shortstop anyhow. And if Miller were to end up in center field, he’d preserve a lot of that value, because that’s a crucial up-the-middle position. You groom him for a Zobrist kind of role in 2015, and then from there you groom him to move into the middle. That is, if he’s hitting. And that is, if Chris Taylor is good enough. You like Miller as short-term insurance, and you like Miller as a long-term solution to a looming problem.

There are long-term young assets here. Taijuan Walker. James Paxton. Roenis Elias. Mike Zunino. Miller and Taylor. Others, maybe. One hopes that D.J. Peterson will shortly join them, as well as Patrick Kivlehan and so on and so forth. But Nelson Cruz is going to get worse as he stays just as expensive. Robinson Cano isn’t getting any better, probably. There’s a truth about Felix Hernandez I’d prefer not to acknowledge. The Mariners seem to have more money than ever, but they still have limitations, so if you have a player with five controlled years left who can help you now and who could conceivably help you at a position of need a year down the road, is that really a player to lose? Is that really a player to lose for, say, a three-win player for one year, when Miller himself might be something like a two-win player?

It’s great to see the Mariners building for the season just ahead. They’re good, and they could do great things. What you don’t do, though, is borrow too heavily from the future for the sake of loading up for one or two runs. If you can trade Miller for a Miller-like asset somewhere else, I can take it. But why would you want to trade him for something else? Brad Miller might not be the Mariners’ shortstop, but the thing about an athletic young shortstop like him is he can be an athletic young whatever you want.*

* maybe even a shortstop


27 Responses to “Why You Don’t Trade Brad Miller”

  1. MarinerGamer on December 9th, 2014 6:20 pm

    Great read as always. I want nothing more than for our team to keep a young core. If Smoak can have five years, hopefully players who actually show promise get a chance for some plate appearances.

  2. Westside guy on December 9th, 2014 6:20 pm

    It’s unlikely that Taylor will run another .400 BABIP next season. I wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see Rad back as the starting shortstop by mid season.

  3. PackBob on December 9th, 2014 6:26 pm

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, and YES.

    There is real value in not providing negative WAR. Last year’s DH is a good example as it would have gained the Mariners 2.1 WAR just by not sapping War from the team.

    I think Miller will hit, and as such he won’t be negative WAR anywhere in the outfield. He might even be really good.

    Much rather see him and his versatility there than the roller coaster that is named Melky. Two aging players on the roster for another 4 years or more is enough.

    Go with youth and versatility at low cost to mitigate the expensive players, especially with someone as talented and versatile as Miller.

  4. ck on December 9th, 2014 8:05 pm

    Good post. Miller has value, and should not be undervalued by the M’s. The best position players growing up are stuck at shortstop by
    their coaches. Many of them later become outfielders, (e.g. Mantle, Mickey) and help their teams win many games.

  5. ivan on December 9th, 2014 8:12 pm

    Good post Jeff. Agreed on all counts.

  6. JMB on December 9th, 2014 8:29 pm

    Never heard this talked about before, Miller in CF. Love it.

  7. Adam S on December 9th, 2014 9:23 pm

    Miller should be on the (short) untouchable list. He’s a league average to 3.5 win player at the league minimum for the next few years.

    The Mariners seem to value him at 80 cents on the dollar already and trading team-controlled prospects seems to get you 80 cents on the dollar, so they wouldn’t get close to enough of a return.

  8. Longgeorge1 on December 9th, 2014 10:10 pm

    I still think Miller is marginal at SS. Think Tom Gordon couldn’t hack it at 3rd. Gold Glove in Left. Read where Miller already can turn and run to the spot without looking back. Look at me. I could be, Centerfield

  9. ivan on December 9th, 2014 10:33 pm

    Alex Gordon.

  10. Edward Baker on December 9th, 2014 11:07 pm

    Tom. Alex. FLASH!
    It doesn´t make much difference. Average infielders can become very good outfielders. Yaz is one more interesting case in point.
    Miller can be many things to the Mariners, who would do much better to spring for a free agent outfielder and hang on to their assets. Melky fits in perfectly, but Ríos is not chopped liver.

  11. _David_ on December 9th, 2014 11:51 pm

    Question is, will he be able to take plate appearances from Dayan Viciedo?

  12. maqman on December 10th, 2014 1:17 am

    Rios is chopped liver, Viciedo is raw liver, Bleh!

  13. patrick the pragmatist on December 10th, 2014 1:27 am

    I am bullish on Brad Miller.

    And very fearful of trading for Dayan Vicedo. 2013 revisted.

  14. djw on December 10th, 2014 4:44 am

    It’s unlikely that Taylor will run another .400 BABIP next season. I wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see Rad back as the starting shortstop by mid season.

    I strongly suspect this as well.

  15. HighBrie on December 10th, 2014 6:12 am

    Thanks Jeff. I think you’re right, and I really hope the Mariners explore Zobristing Miller in earnest. It is interesting to me to recall the way people wanted to “Zobrist” Nick Franklin, without any real promise that Franklin would play acceptable OF. If I have worries in all of this, it is (1) that Miller has more work to do as a hitter before he’s valuable enough to play anywhere other than SS or CF and (2) that Zduriencik and Co. value the future properly (or evaluate their own talent well in relation to the global pool of talent). Miller, while not carrying the baggage of the Saunders situation, feels destined to be moved for something inferior. Here’s hoping if he does get moved it’s for Souza or Peter Bourjos and Peter Bourjos’ pinch hitter.

  16. MrZDevotee on December 10th, 2014 7:28 am

    Hey, CBSSports just released their “Teflon Glove” awards for last season (ie, “worst defenders”)… Based on DRS, #1 and #2 for outfielders were Dayan Viciedo and Matt Kemp…

    I’ve seen those names somewhere recently, can’t remember where…

    Here’s hoping we don’t punt on outfield defense for a couple more doubles and strikeouts.

  17. Dennisss on December 10th, 2014 12:23 pm

    The Montero reference is priceless.

  18. Gormogon on December 10th, 2014 12:50 pm

    This article made me LOL and I never write LOL.

    Yeah, Miller and Taylor both need to stay. I see it the same way as this here article says. DJ is going to have to move to the OF, right? Can Cruz play a passable 1B if LoMo craters?

  19. jeffs98119 on December 10th, 2014 5:56 pm

    Austin Jackson might suck this year too–if Miller can play center, he could be hugely valuable now. Adam Jones made the jump from SS to CF, and I don’t have to remind anyone how that trade turned out for the M’s. Signing Melky and keeping Miller and Walker makes so much sense that Melky’s asking price is probably going up by the minute.

  20. Eastside Crank on December 10th, 2014 6:57 pm

    To summarize: Uncle Fester has found another DH with a big bat and plans to use Miller as trade bait. Good presentation of the situation anyway.

  21. LongDistance on December 10th, 2014 10:54 pm

    Went through the lines on everyone in Jeff’s article and if you threw them in a hat and drew them blindfolded you wouldn’t pull out anything that stood out. Riociedo (yes, that’s deliberate) are the same thing, and pretty much it would be more like Milleriociedo. But a difference could be for sure the age of Viciedo, who with Miller could help offset some of the looming creak we’re loaded with and bring some long-term stability back into the short-term fun. Frankly, I’d take that over Melky (I say that, thinking that’s now a dead end unless Robby pulls off some serious arm-twisting), maybe even prefer it, in a way. But in any case they do need to do something in the OF (what a broken record thing to say, say, say, say … but it’s the truth, truth, truth, truth…).

  22. Westside guy on December 10th, 2014 11:22 pm

    This evening Lloyd said the current starting right fielder is James Jones, who did “good things for us last season”. I’m trying to remember what those were…

  23. Woodcutta on December 10th, 2014 11:34 pm

    Hmmm…Ian Desmond.

  24. amnizu on December 11th, 2014 9:46 am

    To me, the idea of running Miller out to right field pretty much falls on its head when you look at his overall major league career value.

    In aggregate Miller has been good for a 3.3 WAR over his career. However when you break that down by offensive, defense and base running you quickly see that all of that aggregate value is coming from his defense and his base running.

    Simply put, moving Miller to the outfield will undermine his known current value. Not only is right field a lower overall contributing position but Miller has never played it at the major league level. So in addition to taking a risk on his unproven offensive skills you are now potentially removing his known defensive value for very little potential upside. Factor in that the team does not already have a better option at shortstop and this really begins to feel to me like a square peg being forced into a round hole.

    If you believe in Miller and you buy into the idea that his offensive production will return to a wRC+ around league average. Then it makes the most sense to give him the at bats at shortstop where you play to his statistical strengths thus far.

    TL DR; Brad Miller is a good defensive shortstop, moving him out of that position would play away from his strength and likely limit his value to the Mariners on the field and as a trade target.

  25. JasonJ on December 11th, 2014 11:13 am

    Apparently things are heating up for Viciedo. JZ has got one hell of a fetish for all power, no defense, no OBP players.

    50 games of Saunders and 100 from James Jones would be better than 150 from Viciedo.

  26. Dennisss on December 11th, 2014 11:45 am

    Jones was a good base-stealer last year. It was just his hitting and defense that were bad.

  27. LongDistance on December 11th, 2014 12:54 pm

    Jones is the we-don’t-know card. We really don’t. He may actually be just what they need out there, but at this point unless he gets some serious playing time we’ll, and they’ll, never know. Sure, for another lockdown of $50 million or so we can buy ourselves something nearing the odds on favorite for at least a Wild Card spot. But at some point the trade-off is… what?

    Just because we’ve got, now, Cano and Cruz, there are always going to be Baseball Gods to contend with. Nothing is certain.

    Would one player, now, really make that difference? I mean, given the player we could get now, considering we’re not going to get an obvious Kemp-style big bang upgrade, at this point?

    I can see, as we stand today, platooning Miller and Jones, and if they perform up to par (and so at least wouldn’t be an actual drag … given of course that Jackson does way better and Ackely does no worse, knock-on-wood) things could be worse.

    And we’ll just have to live with the fact we’ll be like a lot of very competitive but not outright over-powering teams: that there are going to be some white-knuckle moments.

    Viciedo, as far as I’m concerned, will just give some extra depth … a regular line, neither a puncher or a slapper, and a bit more veteran presence, which could be helpful for Jones. Dunno. But at least it wouldn’t carry major Do It expectations, which IMO has ruined more than one acquisition.

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