The Arizona Diamondbacks have been the most buzz-worthy team in this year’s Hot Stove League.
They’ve unveiled bold new uniforms, spent $206 million on an ace pitcher and swung the most talked-about trade at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.
The subject of that trade, right-handed pitcher Shelby Miller, wasn’t surprised that he was such a popular topic of discussion even before the D-backs acquired him from the Atlanta Braves for a package including outfielder Ender Inciarte and big-time minor-league prospects Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair.
“Obviously, you see your name pop up a lot,” Miller told Burns and Gambo Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “All you can do is just think about, at the time, whatever team I was with, that’s who I’m playing for. At the time, I was with the Braves, and I was traded to the D-backs.
“I was fired up. I’m excited with the direction of this team and what the front office is doing, the exciting players this team has. Seeing all those rumors, I didn’t know what to think, but when I found out where I was going, I couldn’t be more excited about it.”
The D-backs are excited, too. In Miller, they have a 25-year-old pitcher who was highly coveted this offseason. And, he’s affordable and under team control for the next three seasons. Miller, who finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2013 when he was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, gives Arizona a viable number-two pitcher behind newly-acquired Zack Greinke.
Pitching alongside the NL Cy Young runner-up has Miller raring to go.
“When you’re talking about a guy like him and what he’s done in his career already, it’s awesome to be part of a rotation with a guy like that,” he said. “I’ve been with St. Louis and pitched with Adam Wainwright, so I’m excited to get over there and work with Greinke.
“I’m excited to join him — and not only him — we’ve got a lot of guys that I’ve seen play in the past, and they have a bunch of great players.”
This trade was not Miller’s first rodeo. The Cardinals dealt him to Atlanta following the 2014 season in the deal that sent outfielder Jason Heyward to St. Louis. That familiarity with the “business side” of baseball served the youngster well when he was traded again.
“The first time is always hard. You’re talking about going through an organization with guys that you’ve played with for years and you build a bunch of relationships,” he said. “Not only St. Louis, but I built some good relationships in Atlanta as well.
“But it’s part of the game, and it’s not like it was a shock the second time. I was almost expecting it. But like I said, I like seeing new faces, meeting new people and I’m excited to be part of what this organization has going forward.”
Miller holds the dubious honor of leading the Majors with 17 losses last season with the Braves, even though he ranked 11th in the National League with a sterling 3.02 ERA. That, of course, means Atlanta didn’t give him a lot of run support. In fact, Miller was given only 2.64 runs of support per start — the lowest mark among 38 qualified NL hurlers. That led to a lot of frustration.
“Obviously we struggled, and I struggled — I forget what the streak was, how many games I lost in a row — you know, it’s tough, obviously,” he said. “Mentally, you’ve just got to shake it off. There are times you can pitch great and get the loss and there are times where you pitch terrible games and get the win. That’s part of the beauty of baseball.”
The streak Miller mentioned was a personal losing skid of 16 straight decisions from late May through late September.
“That streak wasn’t easy, it was tough, it was a tough time to get through,” he said. “My mentality on the mound was just keep going out there and trying to get outs and then eventually turn it around, which it did in the very last game of the season. I finally got that win.”