When the Houston Astros signed Wade Miley to a one-year deal worth $4.5M plus $500K in incentives, there was much gnashing of many teeth at AN. For good reason, too: here is a starved rotation looking for affordable bodies with healthy arms attached, who saw Miley go to the team they will be chasing for the AL West division title.
Miley was at one time rumored to be seeking 3 years and $30M, and even if those reports were faulty it is fair to say Miley wound up taking far less than he once hoped, coming off a season in which his ERA was a sparkling 2.57.
“Not so fast,” implores the Blogfather, who is admittedly a bit ‘pathologically optimistic’ at this particular time of year. Miley’s signing with Houston might have been a blessing for Oakland, and here’s why...
Start with the fact that Miley’s career track record predicts he is more likely to be a very mediocre pitcher than a great one. Even in 2018, his ERA belied his 4.30 xFIP, but more importantly Miley has a career mark of 71-76, 4.26 ERA, which isn’t bad, it just isn’t anything special. Steamer is duly skeptical, placing its projection for 2019 at a 4.54 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 4.49 xFIP.
However, this article would be awfully shallow were it limited to the idea that “maybe Miley isn’t that great”. An important truth is that when you sign one starting pitcher, you fill a rotation slot that could potentially have gone elsewhere. We all knew the Astros were going to add starting pitching because since the end of last season they have lost Lance McCullers to injury (Tommy John surgery), Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency.
Houston is committing a spot to Miley, which I find reassuring that they did not go out and snag a much better addition. My fear was that the Astros would replace the pitchers they lost with ones equal or better. So far? From the quartet of Keuchel, Morton, McCullers, Miley, the latter is arguably the least fearsome.
Continuing on, let’s take a look at Houston’s rotation to date. With the addition of Miley, it appears to be Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh, Wade Miley, and either Josh James or Brad Peacock. Notably absent, in contrast to the past two seasons, is depth behind the core group.
That rotation is still far superior to Oakland’s, but thanks mostly to the presence of Verlander and Cole at the top. What that means is Houston might be one key injury — specifically to Verlander or Cole — from being truly vulnerable. Lately the A’s have been the team losing more than their fair share of talented starting pitchers to injury; if 2019 brings even a touch of that bad fortune Houston’s way (maybe McCullers going down was a harbinger of tides turning), that playing field is going to be quickly leveled.
All of this is not to say I would have objected at all had the A’s lured Miley for just $5M. It was a solid get for the Astros — but it was a very ordinary get instead of adding to the top of a rotation whose top is now just two deep with a lot of “shrug, pretty good” pitchers following. That’s a very different look for Houston compared to the World Series teams we just saw, ones that at least on paper were quite a bit superior to the A’s.
So long as Verlander and Cole make 32 starts each, you have to give the Astros a big nod as AL West favorites. They have earned that moniker going into the season. But if there is a stretch where the rotation is reduced to one of those two along with McHugh, Miley, James, and Peacock?
I’m just saying the gap could narrow quickly anytime, because the Astros have lost 3 very good starting pitchers this winter and so far they have not added a needle mover to replace them — not even close. If I could hand the Astros another Wade Miley I would do it in a heartbeat. Keep them coming!
Going into the season, how big is the gap between the A’s and Astros?
This poll is closed
Come on, let’s be realistic: it’s huge.
There’s a gap, but it’s less than you might think.
Really the teams are close to even on paper.
The A’s are actually the better team.