To any Red Sox fan, this season must be considered a profound disappointment. The fact that the team is a seller at the trading deadline is a scenario that was not as definite a week ago, before five straight losses at Toronto and Tampa Bay, left them back at ten games under .500 before the victory yesterday. There have been many stories about the attractiveness of Andrew Miller to teams looking to add a lefty reliever. The Red Sox invested time and energy to get Miller (a former first round draft pick by Detroit) to where he is today, one of the best relievers in baseball. Miller’s 2.45 ERA is augmented with a 0.94 WHIP and a .155 batting average for lefties facing him (.175 overall) and a 65/13 strikeout to walk ratio in just 40.1 innings.
The most crucial factor for teams looking to acquire Miller is the team control which ends this season. Despite Miller’s otherworldly statistics, teams might be hesitant to ship their best prospects up to Boston, when they don’t know whether they will have him beyond this year. The first team associated with acquiring Miller seems to be the Atlanta Braves. Do the Red Sox want to fulfill a need (power in the outfield) or just acquire the best player available and get that player contributing in the best way they can? The Pittsburgh Pirates (a frequent Sox trading partner) and the Detroit Tigers (the team that drafted Miller) are also contenders for Miller’s services for the remainder of the season.
Let’s look at what the Red Sox might be looking for in exchange for Miller. The Braves don’t seem to be a fit with the Red Sox in terms of adding a power bat to the outfield. The top Braves prospect is Christian Bethancourt (rated #87 by Baseball Prospectus) now shuttling between the majors and AAA as a catcher (which the Red Sox have no shortage of). Braxton Davidson is their top outfield prospect but he was drafted in the first round, out of high school, only this year so he is at least three years away from the majors.
The Pirates, on the other hand, have Josh Bell, solid prospect in the outfield, who hit .335 at High A before a recent promotion to AA. He was rated the #74 prospect by MLB.com before the season. Since he is a couple years away from the majors, this might be someone the Pirates would be willing to part with for a two month rental such as Miller.
Considering their postseason failures in the last few years, and the impending free agency of Max Scherzer, the Tigers may be in win-now mode. Though it would be a longshot, perhaps the Tigers would part with a prospect such as Steven Moya, a 22 year old, six foot six inch outfielder who has hammered 26 homers at AA this season from the left side of the plate. The Tigers current left handed options might be satisfactory to them. They could use Drew Smyly out of the pen in October, but he is normally a starter and might not excel in the role. They might be wary of using a young pitcher like Blaine Hardy, despite his 2.08 ERA. Phil Coke has a 4.76 ERA so they may not want to rely on him either. The Tigers might want the chance to use a more developed Miller to bring home a championship, than the one they had when they drafted him, and rushed him to the majors, in 2006.
The Red Sox could always decide the return in a trade is too meager to relinquish him and retain him for the rest of the season in hopes of a miracle run. They are the team that essentially rescued his career after his flameouts with the Tigers and Marlins, so there is a decent chance they may be able to retain him after he hits free agency.
If the Red Sox decide to deal him to the Braves, Tigers or Pirates, you could be seeing one of the above prospects coming back in a trade. Stay tuned.