Ender Inciarte

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Shelby Miller is in the best mental shape of his life

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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.

Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.

So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]

Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.

I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.

Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”

Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.

It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.

Dave Stewart: ‘My gut the whole time said I shouldn’t move Dansby Swanson.’

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 06:  General manager Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks laughs on the field before the Opening Day MLB game against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on April 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Former Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart appeared on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday to reflect on his time with the team. Stewart talked about the difficulties he faced in his role and expressed regret for trading top prospect Dansby Swanson. From MLB Network Radio’s Twitter:

The full interview can be heard here.

Swanson was taken by the Diamondbacks first overall in the 2015 draft. Six months later, the club sent him to the Braves along with outfielder Ender Inciarte and pitching prospect Aaron Blair. They got starter Shelby Miller and minor league pitcher Gabe Speier in return. It’s a trade that was widely ridiculed at the time and still is to this day. Miller went on to have a horrendous season, finishing 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA. He battled mechanical issues which caused him to drag his fingers on the dirt on his follow-through. Blair struggled with the Braves, but Inciarte won a Gold Glove Award and Swanson lived up to the hype in a small sample size of 38 games.

The Swanson trade was not the only blemish on Stewart’s record with the D-Backs, however. The club traded pitching prospect Touki Toussaint and veteran Bronson Arroyo to the Braves for infielder Phil Gosselin. The trade was basically a way for the D-Backs to shift Arroyo’s salary to the Braves. Stewart downplayed Toussaint’s importance by suggesting he can’t even hit 96 MPH anymore. Well, Toussaint hit 98 MPH in a start for the Braves’ Single-A affiliate in Rome shortly thereafter.

There was the Zack Greinke contract. Greinke was 32 years old when he inked a six-year, $206.5 million contract with the Diamondbacks in December 2015. Signing a player in his mid-30’s to a six-year contract worth in excess of $200 million isn’t the wisest of moves, many can tell you. And Greinke went on to have his worst season since he was a 21-year-old with the Royals back in 2005.

Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, signed to a six-year, $68.5 million contract, was been worth -1.8 WAR in two seasons, according to Baseball Reference. The D-Backs have baseball’s worst minor league system, ESPN’s Keith Law says. The Diamondbacks undoubtedly would have ranked a fair bit higher with Swanson, Blair, and Toussaint still in the system. The organization has habitually resisted embracing technology and analytics.

(Update: As FanGraph’s Eric Longenhagen notes, there’s also the $8.27 million Yoan Lopez deal. Most scouts were not very high on the Cuban right-hander. The signing put the Diamondbacks over their pool allotment, making them unable to sign any other international free agents for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods. Lopez left the team twice, most recently with the intent to retire, but he returned in August to pitch for the team in rookie ball. The Diamondbacks also left $1.7 million in draft money unspent in 2015.)

Stewart blamed the Diamondbacks’ upper management for hamstringing him, and he also blamed injuries for the team’s poor results. It might very well be true that he had pressure from above to make some of the unfortunate transactions they made. But part of the job of being a GM is being the public face of a team, which means receiving most of the accolades when things go well and bearing the brunt of the blame when things go poorly. Furthermore, this is not the first time Stewart has been salty since leaving Arizona. In October, after he was fired, Stewart said, “Quite frankly, I’ve got better things to do. I just got to figure out what to do next, but really, I’ll be just fine.” He called his firing “almost a relief.”

Based on everything that’s come out about the failed Stewart-La Russa regime, it sounds like there was a lot of dysfunction in the Diamondbacks’ front office. Now it’s Mike Hazen’s turn to try to fix it.

The Braves and Mariners trade young players

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 16: Mallex Smith #17 of the Atlanta Braves rounds second base during the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Turner Field on September 16, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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UPDATE: The Mariners have now flipped Mallex Smith to Tampa Bay, along with two minor leaguers, for starter Drew Smyly.

2:49 PM: The Braves and Mariners have made a trade involving four young players: Seattle is sending lefties Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows to Atlanta in exchange for outfielder Mallex Smith and righty reliever Shae Simmons.

Gohara, a minor leaguer, spent last season at two separate single-A levels. The 20-year-old Brazilian made 13 starts and posted a 1.81 ERA while striking out 81 batters in 69.2 innings. He is, according to Baseball America, the M’s third best prospect. Burrows is a 22-year-old who was drafted out of college last season and pitched 20 games in relief in low-A ball.

In Smith, the Mariners get a center fielder who will turn 24 in May. He played 72 games for Atlanta in his rookie season, posting a line of .238/.317/.365 while stealing 16 bases. Speed is definitely Smith’s calling card: he stole 88 bases in 2014 in the minors. Smith’s path to regular playing time in Atlanta became questionable, however, once the Braves signed Ender Inciarte to a contract extension last month.

Simmons, a reliever, has pitched 33 games in relief in two big league seasons. He’s 26. He missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery.

In Gohara, the Braves get a young starter with upside. In Smith the M’s get a speedy outfielder. The other two dudes are throw-ins, it would seem.