As soon as Hisashi Iwakuma signed with the Dodgers Jerry Dipoto found himself in desperate need of starting pitching in a rapidly accelerating and inflating market. Within the past 4 days we have seen pitchers who haven't pitched in 3 years get multi-year contracts, we've seen Mark Lowe go from minor league invite in 2015 to 2 year, 13 million dollar deal. With a paper thin rotation of Felix Hernandez off a down year and a collection of limited experience/ability arms any chance the 2016 Mariners have of salvaging something of their costly purchased window is contingent upon upgrading one of the worst rotations in baseball.
And so it came to pass:
The full trade: Carson Smith and Roenis Elias to Boston for Wade Miley and RP Jonathan Aro.
I have been doing this job for about six months or so and in that time I have not seen a Mariner transaction solicit such sharp and passionate opinion on both sides. There are people, smart people whose opinions I respect who think this is a spectacular overpay by Jerry Dipoto. Many apparently view Roenis Elias as a similar, younger, cheaper version of Wade Miley and thus throwing in Carson Smith into the deal reeks to many of madness.
I don't see it that way. This trade is far from a steal for either side, with each team taking on a combination of risk/reward. Miley instantly becomes the Mariners 2nd best starting pitcher. While he lacks the upside of James Paxton and Taijuan Walker from 2012-2015 he has averaged almost 200 IP, and accumulated over 10 fWAR over that time. His primary strength is that durability combined with above average performance. In a market where Hisashi Iwakuma just got 45 million dollars at age 35 the 29 year old Miley is owed 15.5 million total through 2017, plus an option.
If you want star level upside or elite stuff you will be underwhelmed by Miley, and I get that. However to emphasize the value of a 200 IP above average starter look no further than the 2015 Mariners, who were devestated by the injury issues of James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma, forcing Edgar Olmos, Vidal Nuno, and many others to scramble into starting roles and fill out the rotation.
Roenis Elias is younger, cheaper, and strikes more batters out than Wade Miley. It's easy to envision him putting it together in Boston and making this deal look terrible, just like a Brad Miller breakout makes that trade look terrible. That is part of the risk. Elias has also already dealt with a major arm injury, is prone to giving up home runs, has fastball command that blinks on and off, and spent a good portion of last year as a below average pitcher in Tacoma.
The biggest loss is Carson Smith, who was the brightest star of 2015's bullpen. I love the idea of trading relief pitchers at the height of their value, and thus have no issue with the timing of departing with Smith. I will wonder what his value truly is in a market so flush with cash for relievers.
Your opinion of Smith revolves around how fungible and predictive relief pitching is. If Smith is what he was in 2015 for the next two years, this will look bad for the Mariners. However if you notice how Danny Farquhar, Dominic Leone, Brandon Maurer, Fernando Rodney, and Charlie Furbush among others all saw their 2015 vastly underperforrm 2014 then you'll remember that all but the most elite relief pitchers are among baseball's most fickle alchemy.
I'm not excited about losing Carson Smith, and think he's likely to be excellent in Boston's now deadly bullpen. But I understand Dipoto's willingness to trade him here.
As for Jonthan Aro he's not though of as a prospect but he's a high velocity, young relief pitcher. You acquire enough of those and occasionally one turns into Carson Smith.
We'll try to get more analysis out later today. The team is already rumored in other deals so expect rumors and deals to get pretty wild. Jerry's got an addiction and he's in the worst possible place to get clean. He does love trades so.