Of several pitchers expected to change teams this off-season, Shelby Miler was perhaps the most unknown. The exploits and production of David Price, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija are well-known, but Miller appeared to drop down one tier or two.
Not that Miller, at 25-years-old out of Houston, will remain relatively unnoticed and under the radar screen, his production, at the major league level, is not as a strong as others who were under the microscope. Still, this was the pitcher the Diamondbacks sought, and went out of their way to trade three, a starter and two prospects. Though Arizona departed with starting outfielder Ender Inciarte and prospects Aaron Blair and the 2015 number one overall pick Dansby Swanson, Miller arrives in the desert as a filling a direct piece of the starting rotation puzzle.
While Miller expressed elation in joining a staff headed by Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin, his value to the Diamondbacks could be higher than the desire of the organization to obtain his services. That’s because he is developing pitches destined to get hitters out on a consistent basis. Plus, Miller wants to go deep into games and give the bullpen critical nights off.
His development of the cutter and sinker could portend future success. At this point, Miller is only four years into a major league career which could result in strong production and solid numbers.
“When I first came up (with the Cardinals in 2012), I was more of a power pitcher,” Miller said Tuesday afternoon in a conference call with the Arizona media. “Now, I think I’m more of a pitcher. I’ve developed a sinker and last season, I worked on a cutter. Now, I’m looking to get better.”
Miller also revealed he began experimenting with a splitter at the end of last season. Now with several pitches in the refinement stage, and with a team which will give him more run support than in the past, Miller has a reasonable chance to put up impressive numbers.
Though his career ERA of 3.22 is considered strong, Miller comes to the Diamondbacks with a below .500 lifetime mark. In 96 career starts with the Cards and Braves over the past three seasons, Miller has a 32-35 record. Numbers, he believes, are not an immediate concern.
“Win-loss is a great stat,” he said. “Everyone wants to win, but you can still go out, pitch a great game and still lose. It depends how you look at it.”
In obtaining Miller, the Arizona decision-makers hope he can be true to his word and eat innings. Over the past three seasons, Miller threw 561 frames and that averages out to 187 innings per season. Should be able to reach those numbers, and give that bullpen an occasional night off, then a significant portion of his value could be realized.
Though Miller said he knew his name was out there in Trade Rumor Land, the reality of coming to the Diamondbacks remained a surprise. Yet, reports persisted that Miller was going somewhere, and Arizona seemed to push the hardest.
“You always have to expect something like this,” he said of the ultimate deal to the Diamondbacks. “At the same time, you really don’t expect to be traded. Trade rumors are always out there, and you never know where you might go.”
Now, Miller joins Greinke, Corbin and Rubby De La Rosa as the core of the Diamondbacks’ starters. With Robbie Ray penciled in as the fifth starter, the Diamondbacks appeared to strengthen their team nearly at an instant.
After leaving the winter meetings last week in Nashville, Dave Stewart, the team’s general manger, was asked if the Diamondbacks are now the favorites to the National League West title. His answer will likely be the template going into the spring training and beyond, and said, “this gives us a chance to do some pretty good things. But, we have to execute and play solid baseball.”