Nearly a year after acquiring him at the 2014 Winter Meetings, the Red Sox have traded left-handed starter Wade Miley to Seattle, the Mariners have announced.
In exchange for Miley and minor league righty Jonathan Aro, Boston will receive another lefty starter in Roenis Elias and a right-handed late-inning reliever in Carson Smith.
Despite moving around the pen in Seattle, taking over the closer's role from a floundering Fernando Rodney only to lose it to Tom Wilhelmson, Smith was nothing short of elite as a 25-year-old in 2015. He struck out 92 batters in 70 innings, walking just 22. He allowed 49 hits, including two home runs. He posted a 2.31 ERA – his 2.12 FIP agrees that his excellent results were in line with his peripheral stats.
According to FanGraphs' pitch f/x, Smith threw a sinker that averaged 92.5 mph more than half the time last year, frequently throwing a slider and mixing in a curveball and a changeup. He turned 26 in October, is under team control through 2021 and isn't even eligible for a raise in arbitration until after 2018. All this combines to make Smith an extremely valuable piece, but just as importantly, Smith and Koji Uehara setting up Craig Kimbrel could make Boston's bullpen beastly.
The Sox, of course, had an extra starter after signing David Price to a record-breaking seven-year, $217 million contract. Because Miley just turned 29, had peripheral stats suggesting he pitched much better than his 4.46 2015 ERA suggests, and will make just $15 million over the next two seasons with a club option for a third valued at $12 million, he was one of the more attractive chips in that rotation.
Aro, meanwhile, is not a frequently-mentioned prospect, but he turned 25 in October and has been consistently strong in the minors, with 8.7 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, a 1.075 WHIP and a 2.84 ERA. He spent much of last year at the AAA level and threw 10.1 innings in the majors. From Seattle's perspective, he may have been key to getting the deal done.
Elias is two years younger than Miley and has been an adequate starter. His 4.14 ERA last year was better than his 4.52 FIP indicates he should have been, but without an open rotation spot, and with favorable splits against left-handed batters (in two years, they have hit .217/.304/.332 against him while righties hit .251/.333/.411), he could be very effective against lefties coming out of the pen.
But the Sox already had the question of whether to use Joe Kelly as a starter or a reliever. Multiple teams, including the Rangers, have reportedly expressed interest in dealing for him. With two relatively young pitchers who could serve as swingmen between the rotation and the bullpen, I would not be surprised if he or Elias were dealt. Based on a strong finish to Kelly's season, he may net more than the newly-acquired Elias.
President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said after signing Price the Sox were likely done making major moves. While dealing a mid-rotation arm is, by no means, on the level of adding an ace for more than $30 million a year, this suggests the 2016 Red Sox are far from being set in stone. Boston could afford to trade at least one more of their starting pitchers, and subsequently, they do have the prospects to trade for a better starting pitcher. Depending on how much payroll they shed in deals, they could even dip back into the free agent market to add another starter or hitter. Some realistic free agent pitching options could include Scott Kazmir or Yovani Gallardo. They could also post $20 million for the chance to negotiate with Kenta Maeda, who will be 28 for most of next season, or they could even shock everyone by signing both Price and Johnny Cueto.