Beyond David Price, a deal I didn’t like anyway, the Boston Red Sox traded away its most reliable source of innings Monday when it dealt lefty Wade Miley and righthanded reliever Jonathan Aro to Seattle. The Mariners sent back righthanded reliever Carson Smith and lefty starter/reliever Roenis Elias.
The trade is sensible for both teams. The Red Sox seemingly want to build a bullpen like the Kansas City Royals. It’s a fair model to build from, seeing as the Royals are the reigning world champions. So presumably the Sox will link the 26-year-old Smith with established setup man Junichi Tazawa and former closer Koji Uehara in a 6th-, 7th- and 8th-inning bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel, which the Sox added earlier in the offseason. Through 79 appearances in the past two seasons, Smith has a 2.07 ERA, 11.2 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings. Translation: He’s nasty. And the whole Sox bullpen is likely to be too.
If Boston can get five quality innings from its mostly-below-league-average starters (exception: Price), then Boston should have the pieces to string together shutout performances on a nightly basis.
Smith throws sidearm and delivers a two-seam fastball in the mid-90s and a devastating slider which he often used as an out pitch in 2015.
Elias, the second piece received, is 25 and a middling lefty. In two big league seasons, both with Seattle, he’s 15-20 with a 3.97 ERA. His 7.7 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine and more pedestrian. Still, Elias is relatively young and holds upside as a lefty with the potential to develop, as shown by his improving lefthanded hitter’s average against, just .227 last season. For the Sox, if Elias develops into a back-end spot starter on par with Brandon Workman, who filled the role last season, that should be enough.
Seattle’s angle in all this seems strange. Why trade a dominant reliever and possibly developing lefty for … Wade Miley? He of the 11-11 record and 4.46 ERA in 2015. However, something the 29-year-old gave Boston something it desperately needed: Innings. With a constantly-in-flux starting rotation of Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Steven Wright and Elias, Miley pitched 193 innings — his fourth straight season topping 190. He’s durable, all you can ask for from a No. 4 starter.
The last piece of the trade, Aro, 25, was a great story in Boston’s farm system. He started with a $10,000 international signing bonus and made an ascent to MLB. However, he allowed eight runs in 10.1 innings last season, his first in the bigs.
This trade, overall, was a huge win for Boston. The Red Sox have seemingly amassed talent which a club needs to make a deep postseason run while giving up minimal assets. Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero and other high-profile prospects are still in the system while Manuel Margot is the only true top talent who left — and his young age of 20 made him a risky asset anyway.
Yes, the Sox lost Miley’s consistency, but an army of arms can fill its place and bridge of Tazawa to Uehara to Smith (in any order) is intimidating enough before considering Kimbrel is at the end of it.
And that’s worth more than Miley’s mediocre 190 innings could offer.