Miller's value rises as free-agent aces cash in

Miller's value rises as free-agent aces cash in

ATLANTA -- Now that the recent signings of David Price, Jordan Zimmermann and J.A. Happ have provided us the annual reminder that free-agent pitchers are quite expensive, teams looking to significantly impact their rotation have been given further reason to ask the Braves about potential trades for 25-year-old ace Shelby Miller.

When Price, 30, agreed to a record-setting seven-year, $217 million contract with the Red Sox on Tuesday evening, Miller certainly became more attractive to those teams that would like to gain quality value without breaking the bank.

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But the same could have been said when Zimmermann gained his five-year, $110 million deal with the Tigers, or when the Blue Jays were willing to give Happ $36 million over the next three seasons. Miller, under club control until after the 2018 season, will make somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million in 2016 and somewhere between $22-30 million over the next three seasons. Even at the optimistic high end of that projection, his $10 million average annual value would look much more attractive than those gained by Price ($31 million), Zimmermann ($22 million) and Happ ($12 million).

Happ likely gained his unexpected payday based on the 1.85 ERA he posted in 11 starts for the Pirates after the Mariners dealt him at the Trade Deadline. The 33-year-old southpaw had produced a 4.68 ERA in 20 starts with the Mariners and has a 4.12 career ERA over 171 starts.

While Happ has certainly never been mentioned in the same category as Miller, Price and 29-year-old Zimmermann have gained their lofty salaries based on what they have done during these formative/prime years that Miller is about to enter.

Miller has produced a 3.24 ERA through the first 96 starts of his career. At the same stage of their respective careers, Price had a 3.37 ERA and Zimmermann had a 3.25 mark.

While all ERAs might not be created equal, these numbers at least provide the Braves reason to once again question what kind of potential value they could be parting with at a time when it remains rather affordable.

There are two ways for the Braves to look at Miller, who earned his first All-Star selection and legitimized himself as a front-line starting pitcher while producing a 3.02 ERA over 33 starts this year.

The Braves could recognize the value of keeping a proven asset who is a bargain in today's market if he builds upon what he did this year. Miller and Julio Teheran provide Atlanta a pair of rotation anchors who have already experienced some of those growing pains that will be felt by the highly regarded pitching prospects the Braves plan to place in their rotation over the next few years.

Or, while recognizing the significant demand for Miller, who has already drawn interest from at least 15 teams, the Braves could attempt to cash in with a significant return that could address their glaring offensive needs and also potentially fill the resulting void in their rotation.

Jorge Soler (Cubs), Corey Seager (Dodgers) and A.J. Pollock (D-backs) are among the players the Braves have requested in return when approached about potential deals for Miller. This indicates they are only placing themselves in this market in the event that they end up with a significant offer they can't refuse.

Initially, the Braves talked to the D-backs about a straight swap of Pollock and Miller. But after recognizing that they needed to get a Major League-ready pitcher back, they discussed placing their potential closer, Arodys Vizcaino, in the deal in attempt to land Arizona's third-best prospect, Aaron Blair, a right-hander multiple scouts feel is ready to pitch in the big leagues.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.