(Andrew Miller watching from the dugout, courtesy of Sports Illustrated)
As July winds down and the trade deadline approaches, the only name I’m hearing in Chicago is Andrew Miller, and it’s really no surprise. The lanky southpaw has authored a ridiculous season statistically. Miller finished the first half with a 1.34 ERA, a .72 WHIP, all while striking out nearly 16 batters per nine innings. The cherry on top? Miller is signed through 2018. Think about that arm before Rondon for at least two and a half years.
The Cubs bullpen has been nothing if not mediocre. Relief pitchers failing to come through in high leverage innings has spoiled some great starting pitching performances. Lefties in particular have been a big area of concern among Cub fans. While Travis Wood has been more than reliable, Clayton Richard is Maddon’s only other option for lefty matchups. Richard has disappointed, as first pitch singles have become his specialty. Come October, Maddon is going to need a lefty he can call on to face the likes of Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Brandon Belt, Lucas Duda, Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager.
Before we get into trade propositions, I want to quickly address whether the Yankees will be sellers or buyers at the trade deadline. As of today, the Bombers sit at 45-46, the first time that the Yanks have sported a sub .500 record after the break since 1995. If Cashman and the front office decide against dealing Miller and other veterans, they’re truly doing their fans a disservice. The Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays will fight over the AL East for many more years. Why not hit the reset button now and speed up the process rather than prolong the misery?
Back to Miller and the Cubs.
I have heard some crazy trade propositions from both sides. Some folks in the Bronx think that Miller should only be dealt if it nets a Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez. I don’t care how many years of control come with Miller – no reliever is worth a young, major league bat that is destined to crack between 30 and 40 home runs a season for the next decade. On the other side, Cubs fans cry for bullpen help, yet refuse to admit that it will be costly. In this league, you have to give value in order to receive it. So don’t expect Dan Vogelbach alone, the Cubs 20th ranked prospect, to get the deal done (no offense to Dan – the guy is wrecking AAA right now).
(Vogelbach swings at the Arizona Fall League, courtesy of theathletic.com)
Vogelbach belongs in the American League, and should be a successful major league bat. Jeimer Candelario is intriguing, as the Yankees could use some help at the hot corner as well.
And while Vogelbach or Candelario alone doesn’t seem like enough, the two packaged together for a reliever feels like too much. The Yankees know that Miller (and the rest of their pen) is the talk of the deadline, and have emphasized that they would have to be “blown away” with a deal in order to make a trade. The Cubs, on the other hand, have achieved success with young talent, and would hate to abandon that model for 80 innings of relief a season.
While it’s certainly possible that Cashman and Epstein work something out, it would seem that the trade that everyone is looking forward to probably wont happen. I know – it’s disappointing. But in Theo we trust. Keep an eye on the following bullpen arms at the deadline: Sean Doolittle, Dario Alvarez, Fernando Abad, Brad Hand and Ryan Buchter. All of the above are on losing teams, have an ERA of 3.02 or lower, and don’t come with Miller’s price tag.
Don’t put it past Theo to fix the problem from within the organization, either. Look for Brian Matusz in the minors and Clayton Richard to get heavy work over the next ten days.