Cleveland Indians Made a Good Decision to Make the Andrew Miller Trade

Jul 22, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Andrew Miller (48) pitches during the eighth inning of an inter-league baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Andrew Miller (48) pitches during the eighth inning of an inter-league baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

Andrew Miller will be an excellent addition to the Cleveland Indians bullpen

When striking a trade, fans and pundits often rush to determine who “won” the deal. Sometimes it is indeed possible to do so, but it is often short-sighted to rush to a conclusion. Rather, one should wait almost a decade to determine who “won” the deal – after all, the Cleveland Indians are still following the ripples of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. 

More from Away Back Gone

The ripples previously mentioned came back into focus yesterday when the Cleveland Indians acquired Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees. Miller is one of the best closers in the league, and his addition came at quite a hefty cost. To facilitate a deal, the Indians sacrificed Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield alongside two lesser prospects. Sheffield, of course, was drafted with the slot the Indians received when the Baltimore Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez.

As for the rush to determine a winner in this trade, that all depends on how one views the future. Rather than declare a winner, let’s simply look at whether the trade was a good one for the Cleveland Indians. What is the difference? The winner of a trade would be the team that received the most surplus value, whereas a trade can be good for other reasons.

To start, let’s look at the aforementioned surplus value. Surplus value is the difference between what a player costs in financial terms and the monetary value of their wins above a replacement player. It is by no means a perfect statistic, but it allows us to more accurately compare the worth of players. While two players with identical statistics may appear to be equally valuable, a discrepancy would emerge if one made three or four times as much money as the other.

More from Cleveland Guardians News

Finding Andrew Miller’s surplus value is a relatively easy feat. Steamer and ZiPS project him to be worth roughly one win above a replacement player down the stretch, and applying a standard aging curve of -0.5 wins per season gives him a WAR of 5.5 over the next two and one-half years with the Tribe. This translates to about $47 million of value against his $21 million of salary obligations. Simple subtraction yields $26 million of surplus value.

Now, this is ignoring the fact that relief pitchers are at a premium. When Matt Swartz broke down the cost per WAR by position in 2014, he found that relievers are vastly overpaid per win when compared to the rest of the lot. For this reason, one could make the argument that Andrew Miller will be worth as much as $75 million in surplus value. Perhaps now it is a bit clearer why the Indians paid an arm and a leg to land him.

Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

As for the prospects the Indians sent to the Yankees, finding their surplus values is a bit more difficult. Since they have yet to set foot in the major leagues, we have relatively little information to use to estimate their worth. Instead, we can use their prospect ranking from sources like Baseball America or and this handy table from The Point of Pittsburgh. Kevin Creagh and Steve DiMiceli have done research to help us better evaluate trades.

Armed with this knowledge, we can say that the Cleveland Indians probably have given up around $60 million in surplus value. One could make the case that Sheffield has enough upside to increase that number, but discounting future performances would mitigate this effect. Since the Indians are trying to win today, having a great pitcher in five or six years is worth less than having one today.

So, was the deal a good one? It is tough to give a clear answer since estimates of Miller’s worth can fall in a pretty wide range. Still, the Indians managed to shore up their bullpen and cement their spot as the team to beat in the American League. Having a prolonged Post Season run also adds value to the Cleveland Indians in the form of extra ticket sales and future merchandising. How much this is worth is hard to say, but I can see it making the financial calculus a bit more in the Indians favor. Combining this with the extremely high premium for elite relievers certainly makes the trade look like a good deal for both parties involved.

On a more human and less analytical note, this trade also sends a clear message to the fans: The Indians want to win, and they want to win now. Fans have long complained that the Dolans are cheap or unwilling to spend on the team, but this trade proves just the opposite. Rather than cheap out on a lesser player, the Indians will pay a fairly decent amount of money to keep Andrew Miller around for the next few years.

Next: Indians Acquire Andrew Miller from Yankees

At the end of the day, none of this matters to the average fan of the Cleveland Indians. This trade brought a World Series crown a bit closer to home, and that in itself has immense allure when we are talking about a team that has a 68-year championship drought. If Andrew Miller can help the Tribe win it all this year, then the trade will definitely be worth the cost.