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The St. Louis Cardinals should consider Andrew Miller

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Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 Cardinals lost yet another game last night due to their bullpen being unable to protect a lead. This has become an unfortunate theme 84 games into the season. Sure, the offense squandered some chances to score more than five runs, but five runs should be enough to win the game. More important than the game outcome, though, the Cardinals potentially lost Matt Carpenter for an extended period of time, and should this be the case, there is no way a trade for the pitcher named in the title of this post will occur.

Regardless, I feel like being optimistic today, so let's consider the proposition of acquiring Andrew Miller under the impression that Carpenter will receive favorable news from the readings of his MRI and will not end up missing one or two months -- one must remember that four to six weeks is generally considered the average time needed to recover from an oblique injury. Obviously, we do not yet know the severity of Carpenter's injury, so this should serve simply as a starting point.

Let's revisit the 2011 Cardinals for a moment. On July 26th, they had a 55-48 record and sat a half game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. The team was probably talented enough to reach the playoffs that season (Wild Card spots were much more valuable back then), but still, it just felt like a change or two needed to be made before the team would realize its full potential. Thus, one day later, general manager John Mozeliak constructed a three team deal (with the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox) in which the Cardinals shipped out Colby Rasmus and three middling relievers (PJ Walters, Trever Miller, and Brian Tallet), and in return, received Edwin Jackson, Marc RzepczynskiOctavio Dotel, and Corey Patterson.

On the surface, the trade looked pretty lopsided because Rasmus, 24 years of age at the time, was largely viewed as the team's center fielder of the future. Jackson threw a no-hitter in the year prior, but it was one of the worst no-hitters in history considering it took 149 pitches to complete and he walked more batters (8) than he struck out (6). Jackson was acquired to "eat" innings, and this is exactly what he did -- averaging six-plus innings per start over 12 regular season starts with the Birds on the Bat. Rzepczynski and Dotel, while both were effective in the regular season, are known for their postseason roles as they shut down the mighty bats of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, respectively.

The moral of the story here is that the acquisition of a shut-down reliever has, in the past, proven to be quite fruitful. Yes, relievers are a fickle bunch, but as with anything, there are always exceptions. Miller appears to be an exception in this case. Since the start of the 2014 season, only four relievers have posted a higher fWAR than Miller's 5.7: Wade Davis (5.8), Kenley Jansen (5.8), Aroldis Chapman (6.2), and Dellin Betances (7.6). Despite many reports of the contrary, it appears that Miller could still be available by trade. Given how well he has performed so far this season and the fact that he possesses a team-friendly contract that keeps him under control through 2018 ($9 million per season), Miller is clearly the top reliever potentially available on the trade market.

2016 Statistics

G IP K% BB% ERA FIP fWAR
36 36.2 48.2% 3.7% 1.47 1.92 1.4

Miller's incredible 44.5% K-BB% (strikeout rate minus walk rate) leads even his All-Star teammate Betances' 40.6%. His 1.4 fWAR is equal to Seung Hwan Oh, and his acquisition would immediately provide the Cardinals with a dominating one-two, left-right punch out of the 'pen. When Trevor Rosenthal returns to form (and yes, I said when not if), a bullpen widely considered a weakness would quickly become a strength. This doesn't even mention the return of Kevin Siegrist and the inevitable promotion of Alex Reyes.

2016 PitchF/x Information (via BrooksBaseball.net)

Remember: Regarding horizontal movement in left-handed pitchers, a negative value means glove-side movement, whereas a positive value means arm-side movement.

Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (MPH) Dragless Horizontal Mov. (inches) Whiffs/Swing
Fourseamer 39.29% 95.35 8.9 9.46%
Slider 60.71% 84.20 -10.2 54.34%

Miller is like Mariano Rivera in which you generally know what is being thrown, and yet, you still cannot hit it. Despite throwing his slider ~60% of the time, it still leads to whiffs on more than 50% of swings. Of note, no current Cardinal reliever has a pitch with a higher whiffs/swing than Miller's slider (Oh's slider is closest at 50.46%).

Bottom Line

No, Andrew Miller will not solve all of the Cardinals' problems. I do not want people to think I believe this to be true simply because I referenced the 2011 trade. However, acquiring Miller, who, again, is under contract through 2018, would absolutely be a major step in the right direction. I am confident that the starting rotation will continue to come around (and by fWAR, it is already the 9th best rotation in baseball).

Would a package of Randal Grichuk, Junior Fernandez, and a B/C+ prospect like Corey Littrell or Trey Nielsen be enough? No, probably not, but a starting point of the still-24-years-of-age Grichuk and the flame-throwing, recently-promoted Fernandez would, at the very least, get Brian Cashman's attention.

Again, please note that the status of Matt Carpenter's oblique will largely influence whether or not the Cardinals should even consider such a trade with the Yankees. In a few hours, when the MRI readings become public knowledge, this post could become relatively meaningless.