Miller remains a focus of trade rumors

Miller remains a focus of trade rumors

ATLANTA -- Regardless of whether the Braves are ever offered the return they would need to trade Shelby Miller, it's apparent that the trade rumors surrounding the talented young pitcher are not going to go away any time soon.

The D-backs were one of the first teams to express interest in Miller, and it appears that they still have some interest even after landing Zack Greinke with a six-year, $206.5 million contract on Friday night.

Late Saturday afternoon, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the D-backs were still attempting to land Miller from the Braves, who have made it known that they would need an impact bat and a Major League-ready starting pitcher to be included in any return for Miller.

When Greinke chose the D-backs over the Dodgers and Giants, the Braves gained some leverage in any talks concerning Miller. They could gain even greater leverage once Johnny Cueto, the top remaining free-agent starting pitcher, chooses his employer.

The Giants responded on Saturday by agreeing with Jeff Samardzija on a five-year, $90 million contract. To compensate for the loss of Greinke, the Dodgers could enhance their pursuit of Cueto -- or they could once again check on the possibility of landing Miller.

When the D-backs first inquired about Miller, the Braves requested the return would have to include A.J. Pollock, an outfielder that Arizona's front office termed as relatively "untouchable" earlier this week.

After those initial talks did not progress, the Braves determined that they would need the return to also include a pitcher that could account for the innings that would be lost if they traded Miller.

Pollock hit 20 homers this year -- the first double-digit total of his career -- and he has compiled an .861 OPS over the past two seasons. The 28-year-old Gold Glove center fielder could certainly provide the offensive upgrade the Braves are seeking.

Pollock's 20th homer

But while there is certainly an opportunity to gain a significant offensive upgrade, some members of the Braves' upper management understand the tremendous value they already have in Miller, a 25-year-old frontline starter who could make an estimated $5 million this year and somewhere between $22 million and $30 million over the next three seasons via arbitration.

If Miller builds on the success he had while posting a 3.02 ERA over 33 starts this year, he would stand as a bargain within a market that has recently provided large paydays to Greinke and David Price (seven years, $217 million with the Red Sox) and also provided comfort to the likes of J.A. Happ (three years, $36 million with the Blue Jays).

As the cost of pitching has risen yet again this year, some Braves executives have further recognized the benefit they have courtesy of the large crop of highly regarded pitching prospects they have compiled over the past year.

With Miller and Julio Teheran, the Braves have a pair of affordable, proven young pitchers that can anchor their starting rotation over the next few seasons while some of the young prospects come to Atlanta and encounter inevitable growing pains.

Now the Braves must decide whether they want to keep Miller and Teheran to provide some stability or use one of them to address their offensive needs.

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