By Jason Shetler
After being selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2009 MLB Draft, Shelby Miller joined the Red Birds in 2013 and had a terrific rookie campaign, posting a 3.06 ERA with a 122 ERA+ and a WAR of 3.4 in 31 starts.
In an effort to improve their outfield both offensively and defensively for the 2015 season, the Cardinals traded Miller to the Atlanta Braves for Jason Heyward. While the outstanding season Heyward had in his one year in St. Louis resulted in him signing a lucrative contract with the Chicago Cubs, Miller was superb in his own right, as he posted an ERA of 3.02 along with a 127 ERA+ and a 3.6 WAR in 33 starts with the Braves.
Last offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks were looking to make a splash, and made two bold moves during the Winter Meetings. The first was signing Zack Greinke to a mega deal. The other was acquiring Miller from the Braves. Although it wasn’t a surprise that Miller was on the trade block, it’s what now former Dbacks GM Dave Stewart gave up to get Miller. Atlanta received a package containing Gold Glove caliber outfielder Ender Inciarte, highly touted pitching prospect Aaron Blair and 2015 #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson.
The first half of this season began rough for Miller with a 7.14 ERA. His struggles led to him getting optioned to AAA Reno in July. After rejoining the Dbacks rotation in late August, he pitched better with an ERA of 3.98. While the 2016 season was disappointing overall for Miller, here’s why I think the Pirates should make a play for him.
The Pirates probably won’t be able to bring back Ivan Nova, given how extremely well he pitched in Pittsburgh after coming over from the New York Yankees at the trade deadline, as well as the money he’ll potentially receive in a subpar free agent market for starting pitching. The trade route for a starter appears a more likely alternative for the Pirates, and so why not buy low on Shelby Miller?
Miller’s ERA was on the high side this year, but he did experience some bad luck as well with a .340 BABIP. He was also pitching his home games at Chase Field, one of the most hitter friendly ballparks in the National League. His salary for this season was $4.35 million, and that figure won’t go up much in his second year of arbitration eligibility. Miller is only a year removed from almost being a four-win pitcher in terms of WAR, so it would give the Pirates the opportunity to acquire a potential bounce back pitcher at a reasonable cost.