Last week the Rays
sold high traded Nate Karns to the Mariners in a six player swap, giving away top-20 prospect Herschel "Boog" Powell and lefty relief depth C.J. Riefenhauser to net forced-utility SS Brad Miller, 1B/OF Logan Morrison, and RHRP Danny Farquhar. Before the GM Meetings no less!
For many reasons, Mariners fans are not pleased, and I'd like to direct your attention to a few reasons why.
Brad Miller was a cult favorite among Mariners fans, and seemed to have been a generally great guy. Remembering a Spring Training outing in which Miller was pulled after five innings and an RBI, Lookout Landing's Andrew Rice recalls being near Brad as he greeted some fans before exiting the field:
...while I was hovering towards the back of the crowd, I realized that Brad was talking to every kid that he signed for. He wasn't down there having heart-to-hearts with anyone, but he gave each person at least a few seconds of his time. He'd take the proffered ball/card/ticket, sign it, and say something like "I like your hat" or (if the kid was in their Little League uniform) "What position do you play?" or "Keep up the hard work." That kind of stuff. These were simple, somewhat canned interactions, but he kept it up. Kid after kid. Inning after inning.
Brad stayed down there until the game was almost over, for well over an hour. One of the players for the Padres also seemed like he stayed down there for a long time (I wish I could remember who this was), but nobody else signed for more than ~15 minutes. Brad's commitment to those kids and the way that he genuinely seemed to appreciate hanging out with them really stuck with me. This feels like such a corny reason to like a player, but there it is.
Since that time, I've learned to truly appreciate all of Brad's quirks. His lack of batting gloves: awesome. The way he grinds dirt into his palms between each pitch: badass. His incredible sock/stirrup aesthetic: classic. (By trading away Brad, the M's definitely took a hit in this department.) I even learned to appreciate that thrilling dread you'd sometimes experience when he was getting ready to make a throw over to first base; his throws were usually on target, but your inability to take him for granted made everything a bit more interesting.
It made you feel like you had to pay attention.
That being said, my Brad Miller Appreciation officially started on that spring evening down in Peoria. Nate Karns might turn into an excellent pitcher, but I'll always be sad about this trade. And I'll always miss Brad.
Read that full article here.
Lookout Landing's David Skiba echoed the personal praise for a player beloved:
Brad Miller is so well loved first and foremost because he seems an incredibly lovely person. He is a charismatic, old-school, goofball who emoted in ways that seemed long-lost on a team that has been so forlorn for so long. He brought color and character to a roster that lacked most everything but the grey scale. But what I believe we loved and will love Brad Miller for here was what he represents to us all. He has no ceiling because he is almost impossible to project. He is an anomaly of the modern game. We cannot fit Brad Miller in to a box like some feel so comfortable and capable of doing with other players of less random and variable skillsets.
In Brad Miller we see what we hope we have in ourselves: an unfettered future. I cannot tell you in any good faith that Brad Miller will be a 5-win player at shortstop in 2016, but I sure as hell can't tell you with more assurance he won't be. The uncertainty of the future can be in the same moment both scary and beautiful. Brad Miller is 26, and has the whole world ahead of him in Tampa Bay. However, maybe we will be blessed by his early leaving. What if he tanks? What if he becomes another Bearded Ackley in our collective thought? Year after year being promised the harvest but stuck still seeding fallow land. Maybe this is best for us all, to throw our lot in with a new character who isn't bumping their head on what could conceivably be a ceiling.
Brad means a lot to my recent past with this squad. He was a connection to one of the most unforgettable games I ever attended, a favorite player of many close friends, and a goofball like me. I played ball with plenty of guys like Sergio. It was always about the fun. I will miss him so much, but I also wish him the best. This current roster didn't have a place for his ball of whatever (feathers and hot glue?) anymore, unless 10,000 hours of CF route running was possible between now and April or Robbie moved to first. Either way, he is no longer a Mariner. But while he was, boy, was he ever something. He was the "It Boy".
You can read that full article here.
There didn't seem to be much love lost for the other players exchanged. Farquhar was the closer in 2013, good in 2014, bad in 2015 and is now a Hickey reclamation project. More on that soon, but he's not going to be dearly missed or difficult to forget.
Logan Morrison did get a farewell, though. Meg Rowley sang some praises for his performance in 2014, and pointed out his rather inconsistent 2015. Where other players had previously been "smartly platooned," LoMo was not. It's a witty piece that's worth your time, if anything to re-live his 2014 end of season moment that cemented him in Mariners fans hearts, and if not, minds.
There was at least one write up on Brad Miller that is of import, and it came from a well-written response in the community at Lookout Landing. Kenn G. writes that Brad Miller's bat might be a hot commodity, but his contact rate has dropped significantly outside the strikezone, and he finds that troubling. It should be noted, however, that Miller's swings outside the zone had decreased significantly as well, and Miller benefited from that selectivity. His walk rates rose from 7.2% in 2013 to 9.5% in 2015. Smartly, he recognizes as much, but it doesn't inspire confidence for him.
Does a BB% and BABIP increase, or a decrease in contact without a corresponding uptick in power and overall batted ball authority represent a better indicator of future success? Given how much we've already observed his BABIP oscillate and knowing from previous research that BABIP does indeed fluctuate randomly for most hitters, I wouldn't intuitively assume that Miller's increases in BB% and BABIP fully compensate for the concerns raised by his decreasing contact rates. But maybe further quantitative analysis would reveal evidence to the contrary.
It's a worthwhile read either way.
As for the pieces received, the staff at LL seems quite pleased with the improved Karns change up, but also concerned with the "forearm tightness" that sidelined him in September. As they should be.
Overall, it seems like the Mariners fandom sees this trade as mutually beneficial, but feel a real loss in Brad Miller. Let's all do those fans a service by appreciating Miller once he's here.