More Light On The Shelby Miller Situation
As the Cardinals’ season unraveled in ugly fashion on Wednesday, restless and confused fans screamed louder for answers regarding unused starter Shelby Miller. The highly-touted starter was an early Rookie of the Year candidate after a 15-9 inaugural campaign, and finished his season with a 3.06 ERA and the third-most strikeouts on the staff.
When the postseason began, manager Mike Matheny said that Miller was being held out of the starting rotation in order to provide protection in long relief. That statement, we now know, was a lie. For undisclosed reasons, Matheny and the organization kept Miller (and Edward Mujica) on the postseason roster without intending to ever use them, crippling this team’s chances. It’s a miracle they staggered as far as they did. Fans were correct to be angry about this stunning roster mismanagement in such an important moment.
In the final hours of the season, clues to Miller’s predicament began leaking out of the media. No, Miller wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t a bad seed like Colby Rasmus. Apparently, the Cardinals intend to trade Miller, as I had hypothesized on October 20th, and they didn’t want anything to happen to him during the postseason.
I’ve heard there is a factor other than game situation compromising Miller’s usage. I don’t have confirmation yet but believe my information credible. I would expect you’ll hear more in coming days and/or weeks. It’s a very legitimate question at this point why he’s on the roster.
A “game situation” would include injury, matchups, and pitch counts. That means either Miller is causing Rasmus-like trouble in the clubhouse, or the team had something else in mind. Bernie Miklasz tweeted something late in Wednesday’s game that clarifies the situation even more:
For everyone wanting Shelby Miller to pitch. No. Game is lost cause. So why risk injury to your No. 1 trade chip?
— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) October 31, 2013
So if the team plans to trade Miller, is there already a deal in place?
We know that GM John Mozeliak had discussions with several teams about a shortstop prior to the Trade Deadline, including the Rangers, the Angels, and the Rockies. Miller’s name likely came up as bait in those discussions, along with prospects like Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Trevor Rosenthal. Given the Cardinals’ postseason hopes at the time and the unknown abilities of Wacha, Mozeliak was likely unwilling to part with Miller.
Then Wacha shocked baseball by nearly throwing back-to-back no-hitters at the end of the season, and vitually carrying the Cardinals by himself to the Sixth Game of the World Series. In a blink, Wacha leapfrogged over Miller on the organization’s depth chart and Miller became the odd man out in a crowded rotation without ever throwing a pitch.
Given the refusal of the organization to use Miller at all during a postseason that needed long relief multiple times, I’d be surprised if Mozeliak didn’t already have an agreement in principle with another team. It’s the only real explanation for the team’s refusal to use Miller at all in the postseason. If a deal wasn’t already in motion, wouldn’t it be a better option to pitch Miller and showcase his abilities for the trade market? Instead, the team hid Miller away behind a smokescreen of lies. It seems obvious that Mozeliak has already talked to a team (or teams) regarding a Miller trade.
But what team, and for what player? The Cardinals have repeatedly stated that they want long-term fixes at key positions like shortstop. They secured Allen Craig for first base (or right field if Matt Adams stays). They were hoping Kolten Wong would assert himself at second to allow Matt Carpenter to move to his natural third base position.
But the organization doesn’t have a good internal solution for shortstop, which is why they spent part of the Trade Deadline discussing trade possibilities at that position. So who would represent a talented, long-term solution to the shortstop dilemma for the Cardinals?
One name: Jurickson Profar.
The 20 year-old shortstop for the Rangers finds himself the odd man out after Texas committed long-term dollars to shortstop Elvis Andrus. Profar, considered baseball’s best prospect, stagnated as the team’s DH during a second-half trial run. One could almost see a scenario where the Cardinals trade Miller and David Freese (or another? Perhaps Matt Adams?) to Texas for Profar. That move would allow the Cardinals to move Matt Carpenter into third (while waiting on the emergence of third base prospects like Carson Kelly) and using Kolten Wong at second. Meanwhile, Freese would be a solid DH/backup third baseman for the Rangers, and Miller would look very good sandwiched between Yu Darvish, Matt Garza, and Derek Holland.
A trade of this size would open a pressure valve in the crowded prospect market for the Cardinals. They simply have too many starting pitchers lined up for next spring, and Miller (unlike Profar at this stage) is a proven commodity. I believe the Cardinals already have their eyes on the treasures of other teams, and they’re ready to go shopping. Profar is one of the largest jewels dangling in the marketplace right now. For the right price, he’d be hard to resist.
One day removed from the World Series, and the trade market is already beginning to churn! Mozeliak has some work to do. Let’s hope he makes the right decisions!