Mariners Replace Hisashi Iwakuma With Wade Miley


Hisashi Iwakuma hit the free agent market in search of a three-year contract. Despite his age, most indicators suggested he’d be well worthy of such an investment. All he’s done the last four years is pitch at a very high level in the better-hitting league. Remember that one time he threw a no-hitter? Like, a few months ago? He’s good. The Seattle Mariners, understandably, wanted very much to re-sign him.

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Two years. That was what the M’s were willing to offer Iwakuma on a new deal, and that’s notably one less year than what the pitcher was searching for. The Los Angeles Dodgers also had interest in Iwakuma’s services, and didn’t have any problem with offering him year three. Which is why Iwakuma is signing with the Dodgers, leaving the Mariners wondering what to do next.

Except that didn’t happen, the wondering part. Jerry Dipoto knew what was next all along: Wade Miley. With a clear target identified, the Mariners moved quickly to get their guy. They agreed to a trade with the Boston Red Sox today that sent Miley and reliever Jonathan Aro to Seattle. The pair came at a price, and oh, what a price it was.

Heading to the other coast in this trade are starting pitcher Roenis Elias and fireballing young reliever Carson Smith. As in, both of them. For Wade Miley and a relief project. I’ve heard this trade referred to as “controversial” a few times over the last few hours. Bullocks. In order for a trade to be controversial, you’d expect that some people would like it and others would hate it. But everyone hates this. Everyone except the M’s front office, I’d assume.

So, Miley. He just turned 29 and is entering the second year of a three-year, $19.7 million contract. He has an expensive option for 2018, too. He could be around for a while, which is undoubtedly a big part of why Dipoto targeted him. He’s been just barely above-average over 832.1 career innings: his ERA- and FIP- are both 99. He’s not going to kill this team, in short. He’s a decent back-to-mid rotation type. Totally unexciting.

Unlike the players the Mariners gave up to get him, of course. Smith is an excellent young reliever who sandwiched a strong season as Seattle’s primary setup man around a short and mostly successful stint as the team’s closer. He was worth over 2.1 wins in 70 innings last year – a phenomenal figure for a reliever. Miley’s only been that valuable twice in his four big league seasons.

Then there’s Elias, who isn’t even arbitration eligible yet and has been either helpful depth or a rotation piece for the M’s the last two seasons. He’s gone, too, and for a pitcher who is pretty much the same as him, but older and quite possibly worse. The fit for Elias has been unclear for a while, and it’s not surprising to see him gone. But Elias-for-Miley almost doesn’t even seem fair on its own, and it’s very possible that neither of them is the best player in the deal.

Obligatory Jonathan Aro paragraph: he’s 25, he throws his fastball just under 93 MPH, and he posted really strong numbers all throughout his minor league career. The Red Sox called him up for a cup last season, and he allowed a 6.97 ERA. Dipoto loves these types, and is building a bullpen pretty much exclusively out of them. It’s risky, and especially so given that he’s traded every non-Charlie Furbush reliever that the team had that you’d heard of. If the unproven kids don’t work out, it’s just going to be Joaquin Benoit and mush. But, you know, mostly mush.

As I see it, Boston gets the best and second-best players in this deal. Seattle gets the most expensive guy in Miley, who also conveniently doubles as the one with the least remaining club control. Seattle gives up quality youth and receives middling non-youth, and a reliever who is almost certainly ticketed for a role that is over his head. It doesn’t make sense when you look at it from afar, and the closer you get the more it looks like a trainwreck.

The only plausible explanation for this trade is that Jerry Dipoto has a very low opinion of the pitching pieces on which the M’s have relied for the last few years. He’s been getting rid of them left and right, often in deals where it seems apparent that he just doesn’t see them as having any sort of notable value. Carson Smith is better than Wade Miley, yet the M’s also added a legit fifth starter in order to sweeten the deal. Are we all that wrong about Smith? Is Elias just garbage and none of us noticed? Is Miley really more than just a number three/four arm? He hasn’t looked the part since 2012, but is there something glaring that only Dipoto can see?

If you’ve been missing Jack Zduriencik, this trade should comfort you. The Mariners really wanted a specific guy, and then paid an exorbitant price to get him. Miley’s ERAs the last two years have been 4.34 and 4.46 – shouldn’t this guy be a buy low candidate right now? Instead the Mariners gave up important pieces to make damn sure they got their man. It’s the worst kind of familiar.

One last little thing on Miley vs. Elias. Elias throws harder. Elias has gotten better results in each season since he made his MLB debut. He generates more strikeouts. He’s younger. He’s cheaper. He’s under team control for longer. Never mind that Carson Smith is the jewel of this trade – if I’m the Mariners and the Red Sox offer this as a one-for-one swap, I hang up. I laugh, keep Elias, and hang up.

This is total nonsense. Maybe there’s another deal in the works that will explain this one, but… I doubt it. Iwakuma is gone. Elias is gone. Smith is gone. The bullpen is shaping up to be a disaster, and the rotation is now considerably weaker and has lost it’s most important depth piece. I dunno, you guys. This kinda totally sucks.

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