In the wake of Nico Hoerner’s injury, the Cubs had a flurry of rumor, innuendo, and actual activity. Rafael Ortega was added to the roster, Shelby Miller was designated for assignment, and I doff my chapeau in your general direction if that was your assessment. I was wrong. As I assess the maneuvers, I’m okay with it. Miller was a short-term piece, and nothing substantial was lost. In theory, the Cubs could even trade Miller for something to improve the system long-term. I put forth that the Miller trip through the DFA Portal is a credit check for Jed Hoyer.
As usual, I’ll start with the procedure of designation for assignment. The Cubs have one full week to trade, release, or send Miller through waivers. I’m confident he won’t be released before being waived. Which means, he’ll be traded or waived. I hear a few of you guffawing at the possibility of him being traded. I’m using the most literal definition possible. If BBRef lists it as a trade, then it’s a trade. You’re still laughing.
To create a trade, two or more teams have to be interested enough in him to have at least one of them offer more than the standard waiver fee. Which teams might be interested? The Pirates started Cody Ponce against the Cubs this week, because of injuries. If the Pirates give Miller the ball every fifth or sixth day between now and July, he might create some level of trade interest. Which is exactly what the Pirates might be looking for. Toss in the Rockies, the Orioles, and the Tigers, at least two of those might consider Miller an upgrade over one of their starting pitchers.
Yeah, well, a slight upgrade over surrender value is what you wanted. Let’s up the ante.
Yankees starter Corey Kluber just visited James Andrews, and is likely to be shelved for eight weeks. As of Thursday morning, seven Yankees have taken the ball as a starting pitcher. As Kluber is off the table for awhile, the Bronx Bombers might be looking for a pitching upgrade. Aside from their regulars who are healthy, only two pitchers have started a game. One is Nick Nelson, who started this game. Shortly after, he was returned to the minor leagues.
Next, I jumped to their Triple-A side, the Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders. They have six players who have started games. One was by reliever Nestor Cortes. Not on New York’s 40-man roster, Cortes has played in three different MLB seasons. All but two of his MLB appearances were as a reliever. Cortes has done well in Scranton, but I doubt he’s the guy for the Yankees for the next two months.
Brody Koerner has started four for the RailRiders, going 16 total innings. Like Cortes, he’s not on the Yankees’ 40-man roster. His 11 strikeouts hint that he might not be MLB ready.
Brian Keller (also not on the 40) has thrown nine innings over three starts. While he’s fanned 11, he’s also walked 11.
Nick Green has delivered 10 innings over three starts. He’s allowed 10 hits, walking 10 and fanning nine.
Deivi Garcia is a name I expected to see in this exercise. A popular name in Cubs/Yankees faux trades, Garcia has just enough experience to interest a team in a deep rebuild. This season, Garcia started one game against Baltimore. Going all-in with Garcia might not be desirable for the Yankees, though he’s my initial odds-on-favorite to get a look. He’s on the 40-man roster, and his 5.17 ERA in Triple-A (twelve walks in 15⅔ innings) could be a mirage.
Their other option is former Cub Mike Montgomery. His numbers are ghastly, with 19 hits over 16⅔ innings. He’s walked nine, fanning sixteen, and giving up two homers.
Apparently, teams still can’t go to Amazon and order a 0.00 replacement level starting pitcher. If no one is ready to replace the injured starter, creativity is necessary. If your happiness over the next eight weeks depended on an apt pitcher to replace Kluber’s production, which internal option are you going with? I’d go with Garcia, but I wouldn’t like it. Miller has pitched better than Garcia, and clearly has more experience. The Yankees could let Miller audition elsewhere, or they could, possibly, think Miller is a better short-term play than the options in Scranton.
For those of you who believe the Yankees might actually bite on Miller, the Cubs are as aware as anyone else that there aren’t many other easily-acquired arms that could be ready to take Kluber’s next start. Even if you buy Garcia over Miller, Miller would probably be a “top five” option. To play the game of precedent, I look at two very recent trades. Milwaukee sent Billy McKinney to the injury-ravaged Mets for a recent international signing. The Diamondbacks sent reliever Yoan Lopez to the Braves for a player yet to debut in the US. I might be drinking the blue Flavor Aid, but I think Miller represents similarly (and possibly better) to those two.
As to what I’d push for? I’d look to the Yankees 2019 Draft class. I first checked on ninthrounder Spencer Henson from Oral Roberts, but he’s on the 60 Day MiLB Injured list after a hot start. Edgar Barkley is a lefty pitcher from Cal State Bakersfield. His numbers are nothing special, but it’s Shelby Miller being flipped, not Craig Kimbrel. Chad Bell from Louisiana Monroe is and old-for-the-league infielder in Tampa, but is better than the waiver fee.
Or, the Cubs could contact Cleveland, who will be without Zach Plesac for awhile. This season, an upright body that can represent as a major league player holds value for that, alone. Miller pitched 10⅓ innings in Iowa, and allowed four hits and six walks, fanning 15. Until you show me a specific better available arm, Miller seems an upgrade over most of the guys the Riders have been using. Might Garcia be better? Yeah, maybe. However, for me in late May 2021, the best non-MLB credential I can see for likely 2021 success? Triple-A numbers in 2021.
If Hoyer is good at his job, he ought to be able to get some measure of value over the surrender cash fee. If he does that, his credit score is decent. After all, in the day, a designated-for-assignment Tony Campana brought back two players. In 2016, one of those would be traded for reliever Joe Smith. I totally understand why Miller wouldn’t be your first choice for a start in Wrigley this season. All Hoyer has to do is convince one front office that he’s better than their worst available option.
He has until Wednesday.
Is Shelby Miller better than the next best Yankees option as a starting pitcher?
This poll is closed
No, Deivi Garcia.
Garcia and Miller are close.
Miller is better than Garcia, and others
You forgot about ______________
That’s an awfully low hurdle to jump over.