Bloomquist’s situation could impact Miller’s status
As the Winter Meetings open this morning, the A’s and Indians engineered the first trade as Oakland dealt first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss to the Indians for Minor League second baseman Joe Wendle.
One of the big questions looming over this week’s gathering in San Diego is whether the trade market will be booming as many clubs seem interested in dealing. From a Mariners perspective, the main question on the national front to date has centered around whether Jack Zduriencik might be willing to part with top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker or one of his top arms.
Once Seattle signed Nelson Cruz to fill its much-needed hole for a right-handed slugger in the middle of the lineup, the pressure lessened on Seattle being forced into such a deal. Zduriencik said he likes his pitching at this point and doesn’t want to take away from that strength.
The Mariners do have trade options beyond Walker, of course. And one of the common perceptions is the club might be willing to part with one of its young shortstops, Brad Miller or Chris Taylor, who split time last year as rookies.
On the surface, that makes sense, given manager Lloyd McClendon would like to have one everyday shortstop and that would seem to make the other expendable in a trade. But here’s something to remember on that front.
Veteran Willie Bloomquist underwent microfracture knee surgery in August and isn’t a lock to be ready for the start of the season. Bloomquist was at Nelson Cruz’s press conference on Thursday and told me he’s just begun running in the pool. He’s champing at the bit to do more, but has to follow doctor’s orders and take things step by step. And that process likely will have him on a limited schedule early in Spring Training while aiming to be full go by April when the real games begin.
Bloomquist is a very motivated worker and I certainly wouldn’t bet against him. But the Mariners will need to hedge their bets and make sure they have options in case his recovery doesn’t go as quickly as hoped. And Miller is an excellent candidate to be groomed for that kind of utility role.
Miller already was working that direction in the last two months last season after Bloomquist went down. He can play second, short and third and began doing some pregame work in the outfield as well, drawing rave reviews from outfield coach Andy Van Slyke for his natural athleticism and instincts there.
Miller surely would prefer to be the starting shortstop and my guess is he’ll be given every opportunity to win that job in Spring Training, but he does provide some interesting options if Taylor winds up the starter.
And should Bloomquist not be ready by the start of the year, Miller’s versatility may be a value of need for the Mariners. That doesn’t mean he’s off limits in trade talks, but it does add an element to his immediate worth for Seattle.
Zduriencik likes his team’s depth in the middle infield, mentioning young Ketel Marte as another up-and-coming talent. Marte, 21, was just added to the 40-man roster to keep him from being exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, but he has played only 19 games above the Double-A level to date and is more of a long-range prospect at this point.
Miller got off to a slow start last year, hitting .204 in the first half and opening the door for Taylor’s promotion. But Miller, 25, hit ..301 in the final two months. His OPS after the All-Star game was .794, second behind only Robinson Cano’s .808 among all Mariners regulars in that span.
That offensive potential is what makes Miller attractive on the trade front. But combined with his defensive versatility, it also will make the Mariners think twice about dealing him even if they feel Taylor is better suited at shortstop, particularly given the uncertainty of Bloomquist’s health.