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Arizona Diamondbacks – weighing the Shelby Miller trade

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Shelby Miller (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Shelby Miller (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
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The Arizona Diamondbacks continue to evaluate their player transactions

Pundits like to argue the value of a trade tends to long live under a microscope. In the case of the often-discussed deal which brought right-hander Shelby Miller from Atlanta to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the essence of this transaction seems the poster child for the Diamondbacks’ miserable season.

In a deal in which the Arizona Diamondbacks sent three players, including the number one pick overall in the 2015 draft for Miller, now languishing in the minors, the purpose has never been in question. All deals are made in the direction of moving a team forward, and to do so with talent. In some cases, the end result is positive and in still others, players acquired remain works-in-progress.

“It takes many years to evaluate a trade,” manager Chip Hale said before Wednesday’s home game with Atlanta. “Some guys come in and produce right away, and others do not. I would think five six, seven years is the right time frame, and teams are always evaluating.”

Of the Miller deal, the Arizona Diamondbacks unloaded starting outfielder Ender Inciarte and shortstop Dansby Swanson, that former number one pick to the Atlanta Braves for Miller. Because the Braves are in the middle of a four-game series currently in Chase Field, the essence of the trade is exacerbated this week.

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While Miller’s return to the Arizona Diamondbacks and back in the rotation of a major league team remains unknown, the Braves appear to currently reap the value of this trade. Swanson was called to the majors August 17, and coming into Wednesday’s game against the Diamondbacks, is hitting .292 in his first six major league games. Recovering from an early season injury, Inciarte is hitting .345 since the All-Star break. Coming into Wednesday’s game, Inciarte reached base in 32 of his previous 33 games.

Before Tuesday’s game, Swanson was sitting alone in the Braves dugout, and breaking in a new glove. Asked by one reporter, “shouldn’t you be sitting in that dugout,” pointing across to the Diamondbacks’ third base dugout. “Nope, this is where I belong,” he smiled.

The trade of sending Swanson, Inciarte and pitcher Aaron Blair to the Braves for Miller remains as startling as it is puzzling. Pundits wonder why the Diamondbacks would desire Miller, who is now with his third major league organization in as many years. Though his ERA of 3.02 of a year ago was regarded as respectable, his win-loss record was 6-17. Coming into this season, his career mark with St. Louis (former Cardinals’ first round in pick in 2009) was below .500 at 32-35. Still, the Arizona Diamondbacks coveted Miller, and willing to pay a price which many considered as unrealistic.

“Everything happens for a reason,” said Inciarte in the Braves clubhouse. “They wanted Shelby and went after him. The trade is part of the game, the business side. With Arizona and here, I’ll do everything to help my team win.”

For impatient Arizona fans, the trade does not appear to take several years to appraise. Swanson is on a fast track to success and Inciarte continues to draw praise.

“(Inciarte) and his arm are really dangerous,” said Brian Snitker, the Braves’ interim manager. “His arm and the way he plays his position are every impressive. The velocity and accuracy is terrific. His feet are like that of an infielder and gets himself in position on any fly ball to make sure the runner pays the price if they chose to run on him.”

For now, assessment of the Miller trade, from the Diamondbacks’ perspective, continues. With Miller slated to pitch for Triple A-Reno Wednesday night, that may be his final audition at the minor league level.

“We have a plan how we will to use him,” Hale said. “There are a few options, including the actual date in which we bring him back.”

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With two days off next week, Hale indicated the starting rotation could undergo another look. The best case scenario would be for Miller added to the expanded roster after Sept. 1. At the same time, Hale indicated, and when the roster is lengthened, players will not sit around. “If we bring anyone up, they will play,” he said.

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