In a trade that shocked the baseball world, elite southpaw closer Andrew Miller was traded by the New York Yankees to the Cleveland Indians for a package of prospects including OF Clint Frazier, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Ben Heller, and RHP J.P. Feyereisen.
This trade was not preceded by any legitimate rumors, which made for a surprising bit of news at breakfast time. Let’s look through all the hubbub and analyze this blockbuster MLB trade.
What the Indians Acquired (LHP Andrew Miller)
There’s no doubt about it: the Cleveland Indians just acquired the best reliever in the American League. The lanky Miller (6’7″, 205 lbs.) is a strikeout specialist and a truly dominant late-inning reliever.
Miller has both set up and closed before, so his role with the Indians has yet to be determined. Miller is still under contract for the next two seasons as well, unlike Aroldis Chapman, who was a straight rental buy for the Cubs.
Miller doesn’t have the 100+ mph fastball that Chapman has, but his 95 mph heater is still a worthy offering. However, Miller’s main weapon of choice is his slider, which sits at about 85 mph and has wicked movement. Miller will throw his slider over 55% of the time.
Miller, a former failed starter for the Detroit Tigers and Florida Marlins, turned his career around as a reliever for the Boston Red Sox back in 2012. After changing his slider grip with the Red Sox, Miller’s slider became one of the nastiest pitches in all the big leagues. He only got better and better before peaking from 2014-2016 with the Baltimore Orioles and Yankees.
Miller helps fortify a previously league-average bullpen in Cleveland. If the Indians really wanted to be seen as World Series contenders, they needed to strengthen their relief corps. With Miller, the Indians got the best-case scenario.
What the Yankees Acquired (OF Clint Frazier, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Ben Heller, RHP J.P. Feyereisen)
The Yankees essentially got the same haul for Miller as they got for Aroldis Chapman earlier this same week. They nabbed the Indians’ best prospect (Frazier) and another top 5 prospect (Sheffield), as well as some throw-ins.
Let’s break this down player-by-player.
Frazier is the big piece here. A former 5th overall draft pick, he was the Indians’ best overall prospect. Frazier is a 6’1″, 190-lb outfielder. He has primarily played center field, but could see a shift to left field at the big league level.
Frazier has collectively batted .273 with 13 homers, 13 steals, and an .811 OPS over a season split between AA Akron and AAA Columbus. His strikeout and walk rates have improved over the years, and his batting prowess and power have always been exceptional. Frazier looks like a potential All-Star outfielder for the Yankees.
Sheffield, only 20 years old, has yet to make it out of A ball. However, he already has the looks of a rotation mainstay. The nephew of former Yankee Gary Sheffield, Justus is a bit undersized at 5’10” but has classic southpaw stuff.
His fastball sits between 92-94 mph and has some late sink, he has a big looping curveball as a strikeout pitch, was scouted with the “best slider” in the Indians’ organization, and is developing a changeup. Sheffield is 7-5 with a 3.59 ERA and almost a strikeout per inning at High-A Lynchburg.
The other two pieces the Yankees acquired project as relievers at the big league level. First up is righty Ben Heller.
Heller is a 24-year-old righty that excels at generating strikeouts. As he has climbed the minor league ladder, his control has improved immensely, helping him rack up even more K’s.
Heller was tabbed as having the “best fastball” in the Indians’ system. His heater is routinely above 96 mph and has touched 100 mph before. He also has a dirty slider.
Heller has collectively gone 3-2 with a 1.73 ERA, 12 saves, and a superb 4.0 K/BB ratio over a season split in AA Akron and AAA Columbus.
The final piece acquired by the Yankees is righty reliever J.P. Feyereisen. An All-Star at the AA level this season, Feyereisen has gone 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA and 5 saves for AA Akron so far this year.
Neither Heller nor Feyereisen has garnered a ton of hype so far, but they should be able to find the Major Leagues one day, possibly this season in Heller’s case.
Winners and Losers:
This was a difficult trade for Yankee fans to swallow on the surface. Trading away 2.5 years of the best reliever in the league is tough to do, but when the return includes such top prospects as Frazier and Sheffield, the trade becomes much more appealing.
It should be noted that the Yankees made another trade today, dealing prospect righty Vicente Campos to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for former Yankee reliever Tyler Clippard. Clippard will help shoulder some of the late-inning load along with Dellin Betances.
In the short-term, the Indians are the clear winners. The acquisition of Miller could make them AL Pennant favorites, and he is theirs until 2018.
However, the Yankees may end up looking like the victors down the road. Frazier is probably the best prospect in the Yankees’ system right now, and the Yankees now boast 8 of the MLB’s top 100 prospects, a very impressive total.
5 years from now though, this trade will probably be looked at as a net gain for both franchises.