In late 2015, the Braves drummed up quite a bidding war for right-handed pitcher Shelby Miller, who became one of the biggest names on that winter’s trade market. As a controllable, 25-year-old starter who had spent the last year toiling away on a Braves team that lost 95 games, he garnered interest from as many as 20 teams: what’s not to like? This was a player who could boost a team’s playoff chances not only for the coming year, but for the foreseeable future as well—and he was attainable. Unfortunately for the team that won that bidding war, the Arizona Diamondbacks, it gave way to one of the more lopsided trades in recent memory.
In its entirety, the five-player deal sent Miller and relief prospect Gabe Speier to the Diamondbacks, who in turn gave up Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson, and Aaron Blair to the Braves. Just about six months earlier, the D-Backs made Swanson, a 21-year-old shortstop from Vanderbilt, the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. For that hefty price, Arizona got their man.
Miller was coming off a year in which he notched an unsightly 6-17 W-L record, but that mark was wildly misaligned with his 3.02 ERA, which fell just outside the top 10 in the NL. He did that while tossing 205 1/3 innings in his first (and only) year in Atlanta, which acquired him as the centerpiece of the trade that sent Jason Heyward to the Cardinals.
But the D-Backs’ valuation of Miller proved to be severely misguided. In his first year in Arizona, he would go 3-12 and was credited with just 0.6 fWAR. And while you need to look just a year in the past for evidence that W-L records can be misleading, Miller couldn’t hang his hat on a good ERA this time around: his 6.15 ERA in 20 starts was the worst among NL starters with at least 100 IP. Despite the impressive run prevention numbers from 2015, Miller’s price tag portrayed him as a front-line starter when he was probably more accurately described as a mid-rotation arm.
The move firmly declared Arizona GM Dave Stewart’s intent to contend in the immediate future. Acquiring Miller came on the heels of the Zack Greinke free-agent signing, which gave the D-Backs a formidable rotation of Greinke, Miller, Robbie Ray, and Patrick Corbin. Add that to an offense anchored by Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, and it’s not hard to see how Arizona perceived a path to the postseason. However, they would win just 69 games in 2016 and essentially wound up as a re-imagination of the previous year’s Padres, a team that likewise went all in only to fall flat.
Even in the immediate aftermath of the deal, many viewed the deal as a vast overpay on the Diamondbacks’ part. But that negative public perception apparently didn’t bother the club, which was dead-set on vaulting itself into the playoff picture after winning 79 games the year before. It’s an admirable approach, no doubt, to try to capitalize on the coincidence of Paul Goldschmidt’s prime with the big-money signing of Greinke. But in this case, the price just didn’t match the prize. Of course, as we know now, the team would have to wait a year—and install a new front office regime—before they broke into the 2017 postseason as a Wild Card team.
At the time, Swanson was one of the first draftees (and first number one choice) to be traded under a new rule that allowed teams to deal drafted players after the World Series in the year of their selection. He is one of three first overall selections to have been traded before debuting with the team that drafted him. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted in his summation of the trade at the time, Swanson was the latest in a series of moves that illustrated the Arizona regime’s apparent devaluation of draft picks: by trading Swanson, signing Greinke (and therefore surrendering their 2016 top pick), and trading Touki Toussaint, the team had effectively missed out on three consecutive years of first-round selections.
Swanson was heralded as the shortstop of the future for Atlanta, which had just recently shipped Andrelton Simmons to the Angels. And although Swanson maybe hasn’t been the superstar that we expect from a No. 1 overall draft pick, he’s been a good MLB shortstop and showed us glimpses of another gear last year, when he had his best offensive season thanks to improved power output. If that upward trend is to be believed and he can provide even slightly above-average offensive numbers, Swanson can really solidify himself as a building block in Atlanta, thanks to his solid defense at a key position. Check out the growth in Swanson’s hard-hit rate and expected hitting stats from 2018 to 2019, courtesy of Baseball Savant.
Inciarte, meanwhile, wound up being a surprisingly important piece of the deal for the Braves. He won the Gold Glove Award for NL center fielders in each of his first three years in Atlanta, ultimately serving as a nice transitional piece between losing years in 2014-2017 and the contending teams of today. And while he’s seen his role with the Braves diminish over the last couple of years, he proved to be a pretty solid acquisition for a team that lacked quality Major League talent outside of Freddie Freeman. He was a fine guy to pencil into center field every day while the franchise cultivated a core of young players.
Neither Blair nor Speier wound up contributing much to the teams that acquired them: Speier made his MLB debut last year with the Royals, who got him in exchange for Jon Jay, and Blair hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2017. He was a former first-round pick himself, but failed to put things together when he got his chance with the Braves in 2016.
All told, the combination of Inciarte, Swanson, and Blair has thus far produced 13.1 fWAR for the Braves, with more likely to come from Swanson and, to a lesser extent, Inciarte. For the Diamondbacks, Miller and Speier produced a meager 0.7 fWAR. Miller lasted just three years in Arizona, appearing in only 29 games and pitching 139 innings for the team.
Last year, he got a chance with the Rangers and toggled between the bullpen and the starting rotation, but the change of scenery didn’t seem to help his fortunes. He tossed 44 innings of 8.59-ERA ball, striking out just 30 batters. In January of this year, he earned himself a minor-league deal with the Brewers, and was expected to begin the season with the team’s Triple-A affiliate.
what actually happened that caused Miller to fall off so much anyway?
dynamite drop in monty
Probably intense malaise
coupled with a general ennui
Peggy took a turn for the worse.
dynamite drop in monty
He’s got a polyp on the duodenum
If i would woke up next to a woman like her, would have sent me running for the physahex.
Clepto you wished you would have half the talent of Miller..another pathetic post by you
Tards81, nice try. You obviously missed the reference. And if you are too stupid to understand, as your name suggests, I am not helping you.
wild bill tetley
Having to read the references by a couple knobs makes the original dialogue less funny. Thank you and your burner account for ruining that for us.
My guess is injuries
He suffered from some very severe problems between the ears. Those coupled with an aborted attempt to overhaul his mechanics, led to his career essentially ending in 2016.
Dave Stewart should have been fired the day after this trade
Preller survives 112 games under as GM but Stewart wasn’t so lucky as GM lucky picking up something in LA years ago lol
Preller is lightyears better as a GM than Stewart. Don’t belong in the same convo at all
Dave Stewart probably should have been fired the day Before this trade
Imagine how bad this trade would have been if they would have picked Alex Bregman with the 1st pick then traded him to Atlanta.
No fault to Stewart, can’t blame him for trying the Marlins WS template. Go for the gusto!!
Going for big trades is one thing but this trade was universally panned at the time. He gave up way more than he needed to for someone like Miller (this doesn’t even factor in how utterly useless Shelby was with the Dbacks)
So 3 players combined to produce 13.1 fWAR over 4 seasons?!?!?!! And people think that was a major haul? Since when? That’s pathetic! This trade has been so overhyped from day one. And the myth that this was a “fleecing” is perpetuated to this day. Atlanta got the best of the deal, but it wasn’t even close to a “fleecing”!
@scottaz. I would strongly disagree with you. That was most definitely a fleecing.
The deal isn’t a fleecing because a the Braves racking up so much fWAR. It’s that the Diamondbacks got literally nothing in return. Swanson still has lots of potential and Inciarte can still bounce back at some point.
The Diamondbacks would have loved to get nothing out of Shelby Miller. They got less than nothing. Miller had negative production in Arizona with a -1.1 bWAR, 6.35 ERA, 4.83 FIP and 1.676 WHIP.
Technically, it wouldn’t be “literally nothing” unless Miller had succumbed to a career-ending injury before throwing a pitch for the D-Backs.
He sort of did, but took the mound for 2/3 of a season in 2016 anyway. His final numbers from 2016 do not do justice to just how embarrassingly bad/unwatchable he was in 2016.
I agree with you completely, but your argument is going to fall on deaf ears around here. I have tried and failed multiple times.
dynamite drop in monty
You sure have.
Dansby hasn’t even reached arbitration yet. It’s probably going to be 20+ WAR even if he doesn’t progress much in the next four seasons.
It’s a huge disparity.
more like a.. hoodwinking
Losing $100m+ in value is a fleecing. You’ve tried to disagree since the day it happened and you’re still wrong now.
Cmon you can’t seriously think that.
Inciarte has been solid but Swanson hasn’t lived up to his hype. Sure ATL got more out of this trade but not a fleece. The Rangers trading Teixeira to ATL was a fleece!
But Teixera actually contributed to Atlanta. They knew he was going to be a free agent, and knew who his agent was. I agree that trade stings considering what the players they gave up ended up producing, but Miller did nothing, and Braves return is likely to further improve over the next few years. Definitely a fleecing. The Teixera trade was just a really steep price for a rental player, much like Chapman to the Cubs.
The Tex trade didnt truly benefit either team.
13.1 and counting. Swanson has 3 more years. That’ll be another 6+ WAR, to make it ~20WAR, 20 WAR x $8M+per WAR, means Atlanta just made $160M off of this trade.
The La Russa / Stewart gamble was a BUST…a HUGE BUST…a quadruple “D”backs bust!!
dynamite drop in monty
Yeah both those guys really made themselves out to be boobs after that deal. Arizona really started racking up losses after that.
How many times do I need to put a question mark?
dynamite drop in monty
Learn to pronounce
plural noun: boobs
a foolish or stupid person.
“why was that boob given a key investigation?”
*Shakes head vehemently*
dynamite drop in monty
Obviously you’re not a golfer.
They fired Dave Stewart too early, the team he put together went to the playoffs after he was fired one year before his contract was up,,, the team he put together in two years went to the playoffs the third year, he deserves credit,,,
Most of the players on that team were drafted or acquired before Stewart become GM. Goldy, Pollock, Ahmed, Peralta, Corbin, Ray, Bradley and others all came from the Kevin Towers era
This was a fascinating trade when it went down. Swanson being traded so soon after being the #1 overall pick was crazy.
Mark Appel and Matt Bush were (I think) the other two guys who got traded before getting to play for the team that picked them. Both of them were given more time to pan out though… And Bush obviously has a whole other set of issues.
This was a crazy and really interesting trade
And Adrian Gonzalez
Technically Josh Hamilton was also traded though it was a rule V pick then traded.
Personally, I prefer the rule C trade. Rule V is overrated.
A defining trade for Arizona and not in a good way. Swanson had huge value back then, could’ve been used in a trade for nearly anyone Zona wanted.
Inciarte alone provided exponentially more value than Miller.
This will end up being 20 WAR to negative 1, and there’s no way that anything but a one sided beat down.
Overshadowed in this trade is that Swanson hasn’t met the potential expected of him at the time of the trade. He is perhaps ranking around 25-30 among shortstops across MLB for past few years I would suggest.
While some may still hope he discovers that next gear, it is getting more questionable he can reach a greater level of play. He absolutely could have been used to acquire many different players potentially at the time Arizona dealt him, but as it turns out Arizona’s biggest mistake related to this trade was perhaps choosing Swanson in the first place. I understand he was a bit of a safe pick considered near ready for MLB action, and perhaps he could have turned out different with more development time, but he has been near replacement level thus far and that’s a bigger crime for Arizona incompetence record than making this trade, IMHO.
Not seeing what they had in Inciarte is pretty bad too, but they were more foolish to pick Swanson over Bregman in 2015.
Good point about the draft position. From what little I’d seen of him in college he looked like a future player to me.
The fact Swanson was seen as the centerpiece for the biggest trade chip makes me think Atlanta also liked him.
I can understand why you may feel this way about Swanson, but he had All-Star numbers the first half of 2019. He had an unfortunate heel injury on 7/23 that really changed him in a negative way until he regained his form in the playoffs and was one of their best hitters. His advanced metrics suggest he became much more selective in his pitches and he hits fastballs similar to Matt Olson. His defense took a step back in 2019 from gold-glove caliber in 2018, which some could have been contributed to that heel injury. Swanson hasn’t had a full year always having some unfortunate injury luck. If he can stay healthy he will breakout. Comparing him to Bregman is natural but Bregman has remained healthy and consistent (not to mention some trash can help).
He was below average at missing bats and getting ground balls. Mid rotation guy that Arizona thought was a budding ace.
Dave Stewart’s entire Arizona run was quite interesting.
this trade didn’t end up as bad as everyone says it has. Miller was a bust and braves got good players but to me for what the dbacks were trying to do it was worth the risk. If miller had a good 3-4 war year three years in a row, that’s 12-16 war. Then this isn’t a conversation at all. It didn’t happen, but I don’t think it was out of the question that it couldn’t happen at the time. Dbacks didn’t need Swanson who wasn’t going to play anyway and they didn’t need another outfielder if I remember correctly. They went all in on the staff and it struck out. Braves have only now benefited as they have won this pas year, ender was around for the rebuild and likely won’t be for years to come so that piece doesn’t matter and Swanson is a decent to good ss that has taken much longer to progress than expected.
Reminds me of the Diaz cano trade last year. If Diaz was expected then the Mets are in the playoffs and it was worth the trade. He wasn’t and the trade is laughed at. Can’t predict the future of young talent. Sometimes u win the deal some times u lose and the risky trades are looked at as genius or insanity.
Aren’t you getting dizzy from all of that spinning?
You must not be from NY. Fans were very upset the Mets took on what they did of the Cano contract AND ALSO gave up Kelenic. Months before first pitch, there was the realization of an overpay, and I don’t think we fans would have forgotten that even with a playoff berth and a 45 save year from Diaz. Easier to deal with in the near term, sure. But still talked about secondarily. Especially when and if Kelenic produces in the majors as we project him to.
You said it yourself. “If” kelenic produce.
If miller produces. If Swanson produces. If Diaz produces. It’s all about ifs. And as I have said since the Diaz trade was made, it was also a salary dump and roster opening trade for the Mets which is and was every valuable and often over looked part of the trade. There was no clear answer at 1b and cano was a possible option there as well, coming off a pretty darn good second half of the season the year prior. Yes lots of money for cano, yes prospects were traded but there was also the top closer in the league which was the main part of the deal and had years of control at a reasonable rate. Not much criticism for the cubs trading Torres for Chapman or the Indiana trading Frazier for miller. Top line closers are worth top prospects. This one just hasn’t panned out yet or at all.
And bhambrave, there is no spinning. Not sure where you are going with that.
If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas.
The problem is, Miller was going to have to over-achieve to ever have put together 16 WAR to begin with. He was a #3 starter at best when AZ traded for him, but TLR and Stewart were convinced they could develop him into a TOR starter.
Their entire plan backfired. Not only did they not develop him, he broke under the pressure and almost never took the field in 2016. Then, they nearly waited until he went full Rick Ankiel before they finally put the kibosh on the entire thing, after which he only managed two decent outings in almost 2.5 calendar years.
I know MLB news is quite slow, but the writers certainly are bringing up fond memories for certain teams’ fan bases with these articles. I’m sure D-Back fans love reading this article.
Yes, it was a horrible trade on the D-Backs end, a definite fleecing by the Braves, no spin doctor can save this one. But I can’t say much, we Sox fans still have to live down the Shields-Tatis trade. At least that trade started the Sox much needed full-blown rebuild, and Hahn did redeem himself quite a bit with later trades, if I’m to play the role of spin doctor in the Sox case. Still, it hurts, so we Sox fans feel your pain, D-Backs fans.
Every team in MLB had a horrible trade they would take back in a heartbeat.
If it’s any consolation, Fernando Tatis Jr. is always hurt and is going to have to move off of shortstop at some point. And because of Preller’s “brilliant” decision to have him on the roster to start the 2019 season rather than waiting two weeks, if the 2020 season is indeed cancelled then as of this coming winter he will already have two full years of service time despite only playing in 84 games at the major league level.
Good job! By mentioning the Tatis trade you have summoned the dark one.
And by speaking ill of Preller I have summoned his mother.
That trade obviously didn’t work out back then for the DBacks. But I feel we’re in pretty good shape moving forward.
People forget, or have no idea, that the Dbacks traded Inciarte because they had another CF named A.J. Pollack. They chose between the two, and I think they made the right call by keeping Pollack and trading away the redundant Inciarte.
They chose between the two
No, they didn’t. At the time of the trade, Inciarte was playing mostly RF, some LF, and only 18 starts in CF.
Angels & NL West
The Miller trade got the D-backs one step closer to Mike Hazen. He upgraded the 40 man roster, rebuilt the minor league system and contended for Wild Card berths while trading two cornerstones in Goldy and Zach. Thank you Dave Stewart.
Miller never could develop a consistent 3rd pitch. If anything his first 3 years he threw in more pitching friendly environments. The move to Arizona was going to end badly for a guy who just wanted to blow it buy people.
Fleecing….idk but if Miller’s fall from grace wasn’t so bad then it would’ve been nothing more than getting 2 starting position players for 1 mid to back end guy. He never even had a back end year.
Maybe Milwaukee finds something but if I’m him I make sure to be prepared for a career in the bullpen or maybe even a career in another profession.
Three people that should never have access to front office decision-making are — Stewart, Watson, and La Russa. This trade alone could disqualify, but it’s not even close to the only horrible decision. Yasmany Tomas comes to mind! They paid him more than any Dback. The guy has one skill! That’s why Hazen keeps him in the minors. Hazen deserves a lot of credit, which I hope really shines the more we washout the Stewart stain.
Arizona did not put Miller in a position to succeed. If Miller had gone to a team with great pitching coaches Astros or Dodgers they would have work with him to develop slider which would have helped. Arizona has had some very good pitchers that became great after they left Arizona. Mostly due to poor pitching coaches.
Miller was his own worst enemy, both on and off the field, after arriving in AZ.
If the Braves truly fleeced the Snakes, the baseball gods got even on the Hector Olivera deal with the Dodgers!
Part of the issue, imho, was the over-emphasis on ERA. 3.02 is great, but his K/W was a good, but not great, 7.5/3.2. Worse yet, most of his production came in the first half. His second half ERA was 4.10, with a 83/39 K/W. It turned out worse than it should have, but I am not sure Miller projected to anything more than a solid #3.
But almost as bad was the fact they broke up one of the best young outfields in BB. Peralta, Pollock, and Inciarte were 27, 27, and 24. that setup should’ve been set-it and forget-it.
I understand why this was being billed as a fleecing at the time but I think we need to down grade that now to just lopsided. Enciarte has been a useful regular and I can see the Braves getting further good use from him as one of the best 4th out fielders in the game but that’s about it.
Swanson has problems staying healthy and consistent. His production has been pretty league average and that includes his better than average field work. He does have a good amount of upside and that might still be realized, but at some point you have to stop pointing to potential.
So far, the Braves have gotten two useful but unspectacular players from the trade. All the production the Dbacks will ever get from there side of this trade (Miller& Speier) has happened so this trade can still turn into a blow out for the Braves. But after 4 years and almost 1600 AB’s for Swanson and almost 2000 for Inciarte, I doubt it.
Swanson has really blossomed into a good player. Sucks about miller though.
Yep, just another one of Dave Stewart’s dumb moves as a GM. I know AZ fans love him!
Cmon, mlb trade rumors. You’re going to reference both the Padres and the Trea Turner rule in a story about the big four shortstop class without calling the rule the Trea Turner rule?