Cincinnati Reds: Wade Miley was best left-handed option

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Wade Miley #20 of the Houston Astros pitches in the second inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium on September 26, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Wade Miley #20 of the Houston Astros pitches in the second inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium on September 26, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Teams have been desperate for left-handed pitching this offseason. However, the Cincinnati Reds may have made the best deal acquiring Wade Miley.

This winter teams have been backing up Brinks trucks to pay for left-handed starting pitching. The trio of Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel have signed deals totaling $220 million. Give credit to the Cincinnati Reds front office for choosing a different and smarter path to acquiring a southpaw rotation piece after signing Wade Miley.

Miley might not have been the most exciting name on the free agent market this winter, however, his recent success would indicate the Reds got a bargain in this money spending-frenzy culture of free agency. Committing to Miley for just two years clearly indicates the following; the Reds are in “win-now” mode and the front office still wants maintain financial flexibility for the present and future.

An argument can be made that Wade Miley provides much more value than both Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel. Mad Bum is 30-years old and will be collecting an average salary of $17M per season over the next five campaigns from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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However, Bumgarner has not won more than nine games in a season since 2016. This past season provided some clear red flags. The four time All-Star posted a 1.3 HR/9 rate, according to FanGraphs, which is the second highest of his career despite pitching the majority of his games in the cavernous parks of the National League West.

In addition, Madison Bumgarner’s 35.8% ground ball rate was the worst of his career. Both of those numbers would indicate that success would have been difficult to find at Great American Ball Park, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors.

The numbers for Dallas Keuchel and Wade Miley are very similar despite one being paid more than an additional $40M over the life of the contract. Despite his agent, Scott Boras, wrangling $18.5M average annual salary over the next three seasons from the Chicago White Sox, all indications point to Keuchel and Miley being mirrored images of each other at this point in their careers.

For starters, Keuchel, the former two time All-Star, and Miley own nearly identical strikeout rates over their career. Keuchel has a 7.2 K/9 mark, while Miley has compiled a 7.1 rate.  Next, each has surrendered just one home run per nine innings during their time in the majors.

According to FanGraphs, Keuchel sports a 0.9 HR/9 rate compared to Miley’s 1.0 mark. Finally, each left-handed pitcher produced excellent ERA+ figures last season. Keuchel coming in at 121 with Miley not far behind with a 116 mark. So why is Keuchel worth more than $10M per year?  We’ll just have to chalk that up to the brilliance of Boras. Love him or hate him, the man ensures his clients get paid.

Prior to the 2019 season, the Houston Astros signed Wade Miley to essentially take the spot of the aforementioned Dallas Keuchel. Miley was very solid during his one year in Houston. Producing a 14-6 record with a 3.98 ERA, Miley was a key cog in the Astros rotation and, for all intents and purposes, replicated Keuchel’s production with the Astros.

Signing Miley to a two-year/$15M deal looks to be an absolute steal for the Redlegs. However, it’s what he achieved in 2018 working under current Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson while they were together in Milwaukee that provides the most optimism.

Wade Miley produced a ridiculously good 2018 season in which he allowed just three homers in 80.2 innings and posted a career best 159 ERA+. In addition, his ground ball rate of 52.8%, according to FanGraphs, was excellent. Finally, his 1.22 WHIP was the lowest mark since his lone All-Star season of 2012 as a rookie with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

By paying Miley a quarter of what Bumgarner and Keuchel signed for, it provides Cincinnati’s front office the ability to remain aggressive in pursuit of additional reinforcements. With Miley in the fold, the Reds currently have six legitimate starting pitchers, allowing them to possibly package one in a potential trade or it provides the option of Tyler Mahle opening the season in Triple-A Louisville.

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Regardless of what the Reds front office team of Dick Williams and Nick Krall have planned for the club before Opening Day, the team is undoubtedly better than the one that finished the 2019 season. While another bat and bullpen help are needed, the prudent signing of Wade Miley allows the organization to meet all their offseason needs.