Boston Red Sox: Trade of Miley maximized value


The Boston Red Sox acquired elite reliever Carson Smith and lefty Roenis Elias from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro, but could they have gotten more value?

In case you missed it, and unless you’re Joe Kelly who apparently only checks his phone around this time of year –  I doubt you did, but yesterday the Boston Red Sox traded Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias from the Seattle Mariners. The reaction was overwhelming. Boston won, many scouts/general managers/baseball nerds told ESPN’s Buster Olney. Many hailed the unthinkable landslide that led the Red Sox to deal spare pieces, relics from the failed 2015 campaign, in return for cost-controlled, young pitching talent. Perhaps Red Sox President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski should bring up Allen Craig to the Mariners and see what happens, they seem game for it.

Still, even with such a lopsided deal, there exists some negative opinions. This is Boston after all – finding somebody who values Miley unrealistically highly and subsequently undervalues, or seeks to find ways to undervalue, Smith are par for the course. Miley, they say, is exactly what the Red Sox need, never mind he wasn’t what we needed in the season we just had him for. We already discussed precisely why Miley is the odd one out in the rotation going forward, but to recap – Mother Nature cursed him with being a lefty and we already have David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez in the line-up, both southpaws, with Henry Owens and Brian Johnson in the wings. He doesn’t have the ceiling or youth of Joe Kelly, who stands to gain much from playing with Price. And Clay Buchholz? Well, he’s worth more wins-above-replacement only playing half a season than throwing Miley out there every fifth start for the full of one.

No, Miley was the right option here. The only question was going to be, what return can Boston realistically expect to obtain on a starting pitcher with a middling ERA of 4.46, pretty bad K/9 of 6.83 and win-loss record (11-11) so middle-of-the-road it’s practically invisible? Now, undoubtedly, the market for starters this year has been on steroids. When Jeff Samardzija, winner of worst pitcher in the American League award for 2015, lands a contract worth $90 million, well, it’s a wonder the Red Sox haven’t tried to switch Hanley Ramirez to the mound. So the time was rife.  The Mariners had just lost their attempt to resign Hisashi Iwakuma, who will be pushing 38 by the time they unhook him from the LA Dodgers’ money drip.

With that in mind, Dombrowski made his move and he couldn’t have gotten a better return. Smith is an elite reliever who has closing experience, so now Boston has no less than three elite relievers with closing experience (Koji Uehara, Craig Kimbrel and Smith). Elias is basically a younger Miley, with more years of control, less wages, less innings pitched but a higher potential, possibly as a long reliever. If nothing else, Elias provides similar depth to the rotation that Dombrowski was trading away with Miley. Smith though, is clearly the centrepiece. He’ll be under Red Sox control for 5 (!) years and his stats are a wonder, last year managing a insane K/9 of 11.83 coupled with a stunning ground ball percentage of 64.8%. He ended the year with an ERA of 2.31, FIP of 2.12 and was worth almost as many WAR as Miley was – from the bullpen!

More from Red Sox News

Objections, from some, may come in the form of worry about Smith in the long term however. He’s a two pitch pitcher, sinker and slider, and he uses them equally. With that much slider usage (45% in 2015) the risk of a blown arm is magnified several fold, at least in theory. In reality too, there are question marks, Smith’s sinker lost a full 1 MPH, , from 2014, averaging now 92-93 MPH , and for a pitcher only 26 years old and spending only his first full year in the Majors, that could be cause for concern.

Except it’s not. Smith actually increased his strikeout rate and decreased his walk rate on the previous year. His second half of 2015 was worse than the first, but his K/9 was higher than ever then too. Why then the drop in performance later in 2015? In my estimation, fatigue was a large contributor to it. And August was the month it happened.

Live Feed

Predicting the Red Sox next contract offer for Rafael Devers
Predicting the Red Sox next contract offer for Rafael Devers /


  • Boston Red Sox make another good signing in Justin TurnerChowder and Champions
  • Boston Red Sox missed the boat on Dansby SwansonChowder and Champions
  • Rafael Devers rumors: 3 teams that should trade for Red Sox star if they can't extend himFanSided
  • Actions speak louder than words for Boston Red Sox, Rafael DeversCall to the Pen
  • Xander Bogaerts says goodbye to Red Sox fans in emotional postFanSided
  • On August 16, Smith was called on to make the save against, you guessed it, your Boston Red Sox and subsequently blew it in the 9th surrendering 3 hits and 2 earned runs. Though he would stay on in the 10th and pitch that inning scoreless, the damage would be done. The Red Sox would go on to win, Smith would fail to convert a save opportunity, one of four he would blow in the month. Worrying for Seattle as they had only just switched Smith into being a closer and things had, at least, seemed to be going well. Should Boston be worried also?

    No. For a start, in an attempt to relieve the pressure, Seattle dropped Smith back into being a setup man in September/October and he fit right back into domination. 12.2 innings on 8 hits and no runs, good for an ERA of goose egg. His K/9 for the time sky rocketed to 14.21, good for a 40% strikeout rate, and his ground ball percentage shot up to a jaw dropping 70.8%. Lights out, good night.

    And here we are today, with the Red Sox already covered for the 9th inning via the ever-so-capable arm of Kimbrel, Smith has the freedom and ability to work around the 7th and 8th innings while sharing time with Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. Such a formidable line-up in the bullpen is unthinkable when one remembers that it wasn’t that long ago we had Jean Machi try (and fail) to close games. From one of the worst bullpens in baseball to one of the most threatening ever, such a change can only be worth its weight in gold. Hats off to Dombrowski.

    Next: Boston Red Sox continue with bullpen fortifications

    We looked before at how teams would seek to replicate the success of world series champions Kansas City, who managed the feat without the strongest rotation but with easily the strongest pitching relief. With the addition of Smith and perhaps even Elias too, games are about to get an awful lot shorter in Fenway.