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Shelby Miller is what Alex Cobb was

Pondering the trade value of Alex Cobb in light of the Shelby Miller trade.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last night the Braves executed an improbable trade with the Diamonbacks, coaxing out a three-win center fielder, the first overall draft pick of 2015, and the 36th overall draft pick of 2013.

Respectively those players are Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson, and Aaron Blair. Those latter two could very well be top-25 prospects when the national lists are published, making this deal absolutely bananas.

It's far to say anyone outside Atlanta is quite upset, unless your team of preference is looking to sell a similar asset or better on the trade market (hello, Miami). We haven't seen reactions this strong since the Shields-Myers trade (which today happens to be the anniversary of).

The Royals likely do not regret their part in the shockwave deal, as they have a ring to quell any loss of Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi. The Rays were able to turn that trade into another Padres haul (which was great, even if the three-team part went sour), and Erasmo Ramirez, quality major league starter.

Trade trees matter, which should likewise salve the wound in Braves fan hearts left from when Miller was acquired for Jason Heyward. The Braves are in the unique position to be selling Miller during their rebuild, because by contrast, the Rays are never rebuilding. They are always "competitive enough." It makes for interesting seasons with a mix of hope, but has not produced an incredible Rays roster in any of the last five seasons.

Let me be clear, I am not calling for a Rays rebuild. If Tampa Bay had opted to rebuild it would be wasting the primes of players coming into their own, particularly in the rotation. Injuries decimated what could have been a great 2015 season, and the cost will be felt next year as well. But if the Rays had indeed opted to rebuild, the Miller trade shows what Alex Cobb might have been worth.

Miller is one year off-set from Cobb in his career arc, meaning that we're comparing his 2013 rookie season to Cobb's 2012 rookie season, and so forth. First let's look at ERA and FIP:

Miller-Cobb ERA

Miller-Cobb FIP

Miller works with a sinker and cutter, Cobb works with a split-change and curve, so they're not quite the same guy, but both of them are groundballers. Here are the statistics for each of their third full seasons in the league. Cobb had a bit less exposure by pitching 40 fewer innings, but the comparison still lines up fairly well.

Season Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 HR/FB LOB% GB%
2015 Shelby Miller 205.1 7.50 3.20 0.57 6.4% 73.8% 47.7%
2014 Alex Cobb 166.1 8.06 2.54 0.60 8.5% 77.9% 56.2%

While Cobb was the better pitcher in year three, albeit in six fewer games started, some expect Miller to take a step forward in 2016.

Unfortunately, the Rays ace succumbed to Tommy John surgery during Spring Training. Not only did the Rays not get a return for keeping Cobb, they paid $4 million for no contribution at all.

The Rays could not have anticipated that Chris Archer was ready for the ace mantle, but as his metal has shone through after last year's roller coaster season, the rehabbing Alex Cobb is apparently on the trade block.

Cobb is no longer Shelby Miller, and he won't return to the majors at all until mid-season 2016. We know the Rays and Cubs considered him in a swap for Javier Baez, which, by our napkin math, is worth about 1/3 of the return on Shelby Miller. Talks cooled over ancillary pieces within the deal, but given the above, I might call that fair.