Back on December 2nd, I proposed five potential trade partners for the Atlanta Braves should they decide to trade starting pitcher Shelby Miller. One of those proposed trades was the following:
The Diamondbacks are in desperate need of several starting pitchers and have several decent pitching prospects and too many outfielders, so a package of pitching prospectAaron Blair and outfielder Ender Inciarte could be enough to bring back Miller. Inciarte is 25 years old and can play center field, replacing Cameron Maybin who was traded a few weeks ago.
Rumors last night had the Braves really pushing for outfielder A.J. Pollock and Aaron Blair, offering Miller and closer Arodys Vizcaino, but I don't see the Diamondbacks dealing one of their best players right now. A package around Blair and Inciarte could get a deal done.
Last night, the Braves did finally trade Shelby Miller, after weeks of saying they weren't going to trade him, to the Diamondbacks. And boy did they exceed my expectations, and probably every one else's expectations. In return for Miller, the Braves received center fielder Ender Inciarte, pitching prospect Aaron Blair and shortstop prospect, and the #1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Dansby Swanson.
My first reaction when I heard that the Braves were trading Miller was that the Braves fans would break Twitter last night with their reaction to dealing their top starter. Well, the return for Miller exceeded the expectations of most every one, and is seen in the industry as quite the haul.
Miller will join the Diamondbacks and slot in as their #2 starter behind ace Zack Greinke. Miller is coming off an odd season, where he went 6-17 with a 3.02 ERA, 3.20 FIP, a 4.07 xFIP, while striking out 7.50 batters per nine, walking a little over three batters per nine, while inducing ground balls at a near 48% rate. Not bad, but he moves from Atlanta to Chase Field, where more of the 39% fly balls could land in the seats. I see some regression in Miller's ERA and WHIP to increase from 1.25 to 1.30+ in 2016.
Inciarte is the main beneficiary in this deal, as he becomes an every day center fielder who the Braves will control for the next five seasons. In 561 plate appearances last season, he hit .303-.338-.408 with 6 home runs, 73 run scored, 45 RBI and 21 stolen bases. He will man center field for the Braves while batting leadoff in 2016, and I expect him to score a few more runs, drive in a few more runs and maybe take a run at 30 stolen bases. He will join an outfield that includes Nick Markakis in right field and Hector Olivera in left field. What this means for Mallex Smith is to be determined, as he should be ready at some point in 2016. Maybe the Braves will look to deal Markakis as midseason or move Olivera to third base.
Socrates Brito will replace Inciarte as the Diamondbacks fourth outfielder, backing up A.J. Pollock, David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas, but could see more time if Tomas doesn't pan out. Brito has some pop and speed, as he hit .300 with 9 home runs, 70 runs scored, 57 RBI and 20 stolen bases in just over 500 plate appearances in AA last season.
In addition to Inciarte, the Braves also get pitching prospect Aaron Blair, ranked in Keith Law's midseason top 50 prospects in 2015,and the #1 overall pick in the 2015 draft Dansby Swanson. Blair pitched well in 2015, going 13-5 with an ERA around 3.00, while striking out around seven batters per nine and keeping the ball on the ground. He could help fantasy owners in 2016, and a decent late round speculative pick.
Swanson was the Diamondbacks shortstop of the future, but with the Braves, he may have to move to second base with the presence of shortstop prospect Ozhaino Albies. That said, Swanson, another top 50 prospect, should start the season in either High A or AA and could make an impact for the Braves sometime in 2017, assuming all goes well in 2016.
The Braves, and their fans, have to ecstatic at the return for Shelby Miller. A great trade for Braves GM John Coppolella.