The Red Sox made the first big acquisition of the offseason when they traded for veteran and dominant closer Craig Kimbrel. Afterwards I argued they needed to continue improving their bullpen. With this trade that’s exactly what they have done. They’re sending pitchers Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro to the Mariners for pitchers Carson Smith and Roenis Elias.
In Carson Smith the Red Sox get one of 2015’s most elite relievers. He threw 2.31 ERA and 2.12 FIP in 70 innings. His 2.1 fWAR ranked 5th in all of baseball and his 32.4 K% was the 11th best mark. He’s only had one full season at the major league level. That means Boston will retain control over the right-hander for five more seasons.
Roenis Elias is a left-handed pitcher. He came up through the minors as a starter and made 20 starts with 2 appearances out of the bullpen. He accrued a 4.14 ERA and 4.52 FIP. His best fit is likely in the bullpen where his 92 mph could play up better. He could serve as long reliever and/or spot starter.
The upshot for the Red Sox is they now have one of the most dominant relief corps in all of baseball. Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Carson Smith, and Junichi Tazawa is compelling group at the back-end of the pen. Each one could potentially serve as a closer on lesser teams.
Wade Miley is the headliner going back to the Mariners. The lefty has been a decent starter over 6 year career. The Red Sox initially acquired him around a year ago with the hopes that he was in store for a breakout season. That was not the case. He made 32 starts throwing 193.2 innings with a 4.46 ERA. His 3.81 FIP looked a lot better and so perhaps in a pitchers park with a good defense he could still find that breakout season.
He’s under contract through the 2017 season with a team option for 2018. He makes $6 million in 2016, $8.8 million in 2017, and could be had for $12 million in 2018 with a $0.5 million buyout on the option. That’s extremely cheap in the current era of big money deals. Even if Miley can’t take a step forward he’s an appropriately costed back end starter capable of making 30+ starts.
Jonathan Aro is similar to Roenis Elias in that his best fit is in the bullpen. He’s had success as a reliever in the minors and comes with the full six years of team control. MLB Pipeline rates his fastball as a 60–which is plus. He has an average slider and above average control. So he could develop into a quality middle reliever.
The Mariners had to do something for their rotation after losing out to the Dodgers for the services of Hisashi Iwakuma. Wade Miley isn’t as safe a bet to produce at the level that Iwakuma can. But he’s much younger and much cheaper. If he can take a step forward I think the Mariners rotation won’t lose a step.
It’s hard to say who comes out better in this trade. I think Carson Smith is the best player in this deal. But he’s still just a reliever. Wade Miley has the ability to be a solid mid-rotation starter under cheap team control for the next three years. But he also has to prove that he can do that. So which is more valuable to you: Top notch high leverage reliever or mid-rotation starter?
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs