Early this morning, the Yankees traded Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for top prospects Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, as well as relief prospects Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Not only did the team transition into #TeamSell, but they did so at about 8:30 AM on a Sunday. That’s not exactly 5 PM on a Friday, but how about that for a news dump? Anyway, Ben reported the full story earlier, but here are a few instant thoughts on the trade:
The cost to obtain Andrew Miller sounds right
Last week when the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman, it was universally hailed as a coup for New York. Brian Cashman plundered the Cubs farm system. It was highway robbery. This deal, on the other hand, seems about right. The market for elite relievers has been firmly established at four-player packages. That’s what Ken Giles and Chapman drew, despite Mark Melancon’s comparatively light return. While the former two were probably overpays, I think that this one is fairly accurate.
Frazier is a stud. He’s currently ranked as the number 24 prospect in all of baseball, per MLB.com. He’s a corner outfielder with a good shot of being a 20-20 guy. His bat speed is insane. Plus his hair. Have you seen his hair? Get a look at it before he has to cut it with the Yankees. It’s 80-grade hair, the kind that puts Ben Gamel’s to shame. Frazier someone with legitimate star upside, and he firmly settles in as the Yankees number one prospect. That’s three number-one prospects in the last two weeks. What a time to be alive.
Justus Sheffield is a High-A left-handed pitcher. The Yankees understandably seem to love this guy. His fastball reaches the mid-90s and he has a solid feel for three other pitches. He’s not an instant impact piece, but a long term project. Also, he adds to the ridiculous amount of talent the Yankees have at the High-A level. That team is fun to follow.
The Yankees round out the deal with two relief prospects, Heller and Feyereisen. Heller was in Cleveland’s top 30 prospects, and some think that he is a future closer with a heater that runs into triple digits. For the third and fourth pieces in the deal, that’s pretty good.
Now on the whole, I think that this is an appropriate deal for arguably the best relief pitcher on the planet. The market value for elite relievers is exorbitant, but I don’t think this was on an overpay. It’s not Lucas Giolito for Miller straight up. It’s not taking the packages to the next level and breaking the market, like Chapman did. This seems about right.
The Yankees are now in a full-scale rebuild
If this trade doesn’t signal that the Yankees are waving the the white flag, then I don’t know what will. They’ve now traded two of their end-game forces for prospects. That’s pretty much the rebuilding blueprint. Relief pitchers are volatile, from year to year and, heck, from appearance to appearance. When you begin a legitimate rebuild, closers are the first to go. They probably won’t be effective by the time you’re ready to contend.
Ignore the reports saying the Yankees are still trying to go for it and that Girardi told reporters that the team is not waving the white flag. This is at the same time that Cashman is wandering through the clubhouse, handing out little white flags to players with one hand, and texting other GM’s with trade proposals in the other. I think that the reticence to concede is just last-minute posturing that will be pervasive until the deadline passes. Hal Steinbrenner can’t possibly be that stubborn. If he approved trading Miller, he knows that he pulled the plug on the Yankees season. In a sense it’s over, but in another, it’s only just begun.
Today marks the beginning of the Yankees full-scale rebuilding project. For years now they’ve been wading in the shallow water of a rebuild. They’ve acquired young talent in need of scenery changes. Sometimes it’s worked, like Didi Gregorius. Other times it didn’t, like Aaron Hicks. The rebuild on-the-fly strategy made sense for an organization that refused to bend, but that was only treading water. Steinbrenner approved two massive trades in just as many weeks. That’s a dive into the deep end.
The Yankees are ready to rebuild and nobody is safe. Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Chase Headley... anyone and everyone should be on the table. Even the recently acquired Tyler Clippard is on the table. The goal is to acquire as much talent as possible, infuse that into an already strong system. With the Miller trade, the Yankees farm system crept close to the top five mark, maybe just on the outside looking in of the top five. By the time that the trade deadline passes, however, it’s conceivable to think that the Yankees will be firmly entrenched in the top five systems in all of baseball.
I’m going to really miss Andrew Miller
My initial reaction to the Chapman trade was excitement, new prospects for a player that I didn’t really like in the first place. I couldn’t have had a different gut feeling for the Miller trade. Frazier! Sheffield! New relief pitchers that will turn into dominant closers, because that’s what the Yankees do with relief pitchers! But, no. Miller is probably my favorite player in all of baseball, and this stings.
It’s hard not to love Miller. He was a force on the mound. His slider came from another planet. It was so vicious that it often looked like it defied the laws of gravity. Plus, he was as cool and tough as they come. He was ice cold on the mound, nothing bothered him. Heck, he pitched this year with a broken wrist! That’s not to mention the universally acknowledged fact that Miller is an A+ clubhouse guy who was not only great with fans but reporters. What more could you ask of a guy? I’m sure Girardi and company would love to bottle that and feed it to the rest of the team.
When the news broke, I wondered about what could be considered Miller’s signature Yankee moment. A number of appearances came to mind, but what stood out to me was his epic 12-pitch battle against Troy Tulowitzki last August. The Blue Jays were riding an 11-game winning streak and fighting for first place with the Yankees. Miller’s save reclaimed the top of the division for New York. That was a huge win for the 2015 Yankees, and a huge moment for Miller. Just take a look:
Goodness gracious, that was electric. The only thing I loved more than watching Miller pitch was watching Miller celebrate a save. He was always amped and I think that a lot of us fans shared his energy.
This has been a bittersweet morning in the Yankees universe. Miller is gone, but even more young talent arrived. The future is brighter than ever, but the present stings. This was the right baseball thing to do. Just look at the Royals. Wade Davis is just hours removed from an MRI tube. Cash in on your assets when you have the chance. From a fan’s perspective, however, it feels dreadful.
Soon, I’ll be writing about how Frazier is knocking down the door and ready to be an impact player. I’ll salivate over Sheffield’s starts as he climbs the ladder. I’ll be amazed at how Heller and Feyereisen dominate big league batters. But for now, I’ll be watching those Miller highlights and signing Happy Trails.
Happy trails indeed, my friend.