“This was an opportunity to clearly help our team and help us get to the postseason.”
That was the modest goal put forth by Cleveland Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti when he dealt a package of prospects for Andrew Miller that included the club’s then No. 2 prospect and a handful of promising arms in the farm system.
A lot of fans, including myself, thought it seemed like a lot for “just a reliever.” We were wrong. I was wrong.
What Miller has already done for the Indians is incredible
Any team dealing for a high-profile at the deadline should be happy to get a shutdown inning in a pivotal game in a playoff series. With Andrew Miller, the Indians’ biggest trade deadline acquisition shut down the entire AL side of the postseason bracket.
In 11.2 postseason innings, the 31-year-old lefty struck out 21 batters, issued two walks and held his opponents scoreless off of five hits. His performance earned him the title of ALCS MVP, just the fourth reliever to win the award.
Miller’s dominance of the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS was a key part of the Indians advancing to their first World Series since 1997. He threw 7.2 innings of the ALCS, striking out 14 Blue Jays and walking none. In the series-clinching Game 5, Miller only struck out one batter, but he was so efficient at getting batters out that he lasted 2.2 innings — the longest single outing of his career since being full converted to a reliever in 2012.
MVP awards are not handed out for the ALDS, but you can bet he would have won it for that, too. Not only did he pitch just as many innings as every other Boston Red Sox starter (4.0), but he struck out seven and walked just two.
What Miller did in the 2016 regular season or whatever he does in future regular seasons is already moot with what he did in the past week. All the regular season value in the world cannot make up for the way he carried the Tribe on his back.
Prospects? What prospects?
Okay, that is not sub-heading is not entirely fair. I certainly remember Clint Frazier, JP Feyereisen, Ben Heller, and Justus Sheffield all they did for the Indians farm system.
I remember the potential, the thoughts of seeing them all on the field. And, most importantly, the thought of having Clint “Red Thunder” Frazier and Bradley “White Lightning” Zimmer in the same outfield someday and being able to say “Here comes the storm.” Sigh, it would have been an awesome catch phrase, you guys.
But none of that matters now.
We do not know how many, if any, of those prospects will pan out for the New York Yankees in the future. So far only Ben Heller — a fireballer reliever capable of hitting 100 mph — has made his major league debut and he looked like a rookie in his 10 innings of relief. Feyereisen — another reliever with a lot of potential — spent the entire season in Double-A, while Frazier had a fair share of troubles since joining the Yankees organization.
I have to think, though, it really does not matter what any of them do at this point. The Indians have to feel like they already won the Andrew Miller trade pretty handily. Cleveland was easily on track to win the AL Central without Miller, but would they have made it to the World Series without him? Would they have made it there with a 7-1 record in the postseason? Absolutely not.
The Indians only needed one great inning out of Miller to make the trade seem almost fair. They got 11.2 innings of total domination. Anything he does over the remainder of his bargain contract is icing at this point.
And let’s not forget that the farm system is far from barren after this deal. This is a huge credit to the job Chris Antonetti has done as the team’s general manager and now president — the farm is still stacked.
Bradley Zimmer, Triston McKenzie, Brady Aiken, Yandy Diaz, Bobby Bradley, and Francisco Mejia alone make the Indians farm system enticing. Zimmer and Diaz could see time with the Tribe next year, while the others could be used to extended the team’s playoff window, or in more deals to bolster a winning 2017 for another playoff run. That this point, I am on board with whatever this front office wants to do. They’ve earned our trust.
There is almost no way the Indians regret this trade
Here is a fun little thought experiment: Try and imagine how the Indians could possibly end up regretting the trade.
Andrew Miller carried this team a World Series appearance. What if a core consisting of exactly Clint Frazier, Ben Heller, JP Feyereisen, and Justus Sheffield carry the Yankees to a new dynasty? Even then, the Indians could not guarantee those prospects would pan out the same in Cleveland. There’s no assurance that the 2016 Indians do anything but fizzle out against a Red Sox team that was the overwhelming favorite in the ALDS.
There will always be uncertainty in baseball, but in sending over a Mayflower of prospects for just a single reliever, the Indians were able to give themselves a big certainty when it mattered most.