And the first offseason domino has fallen! Just kidding. The Los Angeles Dodgers made a fairly minor transaction, but one that could help them weather the 162-game marathon from a pitching perspective.
On Tuesday evening, the Dodgers agreed to a deal with pitcher Shelby Miller, the former All-Star who was the centerpiece of the Dansby Swanson trade between the Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2015.
Holy moly, talk about a blast from the past. Now, all of a sudden, Swanson is a high-profile free agent while Miller will join his eighth team since 2014. The right-hander, from the jump, failed to live up to expectations after his All-Star 2015 campaign that featured a 3.02 ERA, 3.45 FIP and 171 strikeouts in 205.1 innings.
Once viewed as a top-of-the-rotation piece, Miller has largely been an ineffective starter or mop-up reliever since the 2016 season. He’s pitched in just 45 games in MLB since the start of the 2017 season, and opted out of the 2020 campaign due the pandemic (in addition to dealing with injuries as well as stints in the minor leagues).
Miller now sports a two-pitch mix — a slider accompanied by a four-seam fastball — that the Dodgers likely believe they can utilize effectively in their bullpen since 1) this is a major league contract and 2) they’re no stranger to reclamation projects.
The Dodgers have signed former All-Star Shelby Miller
Did we mention he was a member of the San Francisco Giants in 2022 after the Yankees let him go in June? Yup. He pitched in just four games, though, allowing five earned runs on six hits and three walks across seven innings. Not good.
What likely intrigued the Dodgers, however, were some of his peripheral metrics. First off, Miller struck out 14 batters in those seven innings, which is a significant number. Additionally, his FIP was an impressive 0.40 (despite the small sample size). He ranked in the 98th percentile in “extension,” via Baseball Savant, which “quantifies exactly how much closer a pitcher’s release point is to home plate.” He was also in the 75th percentile for fastball spin.
Fans would like to think the Dodgers have their eyes peeled on those numbers/stats as they look to acquire another diamond in the rough bullpen contributor. They made something out of nothing with Evan Phillips, Phil Bickford, Corey Knebel, Alex Vesia, Yency Almonte and even Tyler Anderson over the last few years.
Can they bank on that, though? Not entirely. Fans would agree there probably needs to be a few more notable bullpen acquisitions before the Dodgers can feel comfortable in that department. And if Miller succeeds? Great. He’ll be another weapon in the mix.