Free agent left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley and the Milwaukee Brewers have come to an agreement on a one-year $4.5 million contract. For Miley, this will be his second stint with the Brewers, having spent the 2018 season with Milwaukee. During that campaign, which saw the Brewers advance all the way to Game Seven of the National League Championship Series, Miley was 5-2 in 16 starts. In the postseason, Miley started four games for the Brewers, one in the NLDS and three in the NLCS. He did not allow a run in his lone NLDS start and was 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the NLCS.
Since leaving the Brewers, Miley has gone 28-18 with a 3.70 ERA with the Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago Cubs. His best season since leaving the Brewers was in 2019 when he went 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA. In 2021, he went 12-7 with a 3.37 ERA for another solid season. Last year, with the Cubs, Miley was only healthy for nine games (eight starts). In those games, he was 2-2 with a 3.17 ERA.
All of these stats to say this: when Wade Miley is healthy, he is a tremendous asset to any team’s starting rotation. Now, the Brewers already have a stellar six-man rotation, so what does the Wade Miley signing mean for them?
The Projected 2023 Brewers Starting Rotation Prior to Signing Wade Miley
The current projected Brewers starting rotation consists of the following players (presented with their 2022 stats):
- Corbin Burnes: 12-8, 2.94 ERA, 33 starts, 202.0 innings, 0.97 WHIP, 243 strikeouts
- Eric Lauer: 11-7, 3.69 ERA, 29 starts, 158.2 innings, 1.22 WHIP, 157 strikeouts
- Brandon Woodruff: 13-4, 3.05 ERA, 27 starts, 153.1 innings, 1.07 WHIP, 190 strikeouts
- Aaron Ashby: 2-10, 4.44 ERA, 19 starts (27 games), 107.1 innings, 1.43 WHIP, 126 strikeouts
- Adrian Houser: 6-10, 4.73 ERA, 21 starts (22 games), 102.2 innings, 1.46 WHIP, 69 strikeouts
- Freddy Peralta: 4-4, 3.58 ERA, 17 starts (18 games), 78.0 innings, 1.04 WHIP, 86 strikeouts
Will Wade Miley Push One of the Projected Brewers Starters to the Bullpen?
The six-man starting rotation has become the norm among several Major League Baseball teams. That being said, only Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta, and Lauer are truly “locks” for the starting rotation. A healthy Wade Miley has out-pitched both Houser and Ashby. It is possible that the addition of Miley could move one of them to the bullpen.
If that is the case, there are a couple of factors to consider. On the one hand, moving Houser to the bullpen would give the Brewers three right handed pitchers (Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta) and three left-handed pitchers (Lauer, Ashby, Miley) in their starting rotation. A balance of righties and lefties could be very beneficial.
In addition, throughout the course of his career, Houser has been a much more effective reliever than he has been a starter. When coming out of the bullpen, Houser is 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in 30 appearances. As a starter, though, he is 18-29 with a 4.31 ERA.
On the other hand, moving Ashby to the bullpen might also be the best short-term move for the young pitcher. So far in his career, Ashby is 3-8 with a 4.79 ERA as a starter. As a reliever, though, his numbers are much better. When coming out of the bullpen, Ashby is 2-4 with a 3.66 ERA and two saves.
Could the Brewers Trade One of Their Fringe Starters?
Of course, most of the trade rumors surrounding Brewers starting pitchers will include Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. These two pitchers have two years of club control remaining and are believed to be out of Milwaukee’s price range. That being said, the Brewers have a competitive team. Trading perennial Cy Young candidates will not be in the cards this year.
Aaron Ashby and Freddy Peralta both signed extremely team-friendly contracts to remain with the Brewers for the long-term. One has to imagine they are not available to any other teams via trade.
This leaves Eric Lauer and Adrian Houser as the most likely members of the Brewers starting rotation that could be moved via trade. Like Burnes and Woodruff, they each have two years of club control remaining.
It is important to keep in mind, though, that Lauer and Houser will not command the same level of salaries as Burnes and Woodruff. The Brewers, like all teams, want to keep their starting rotation as intact as possible for as long as they can. Reaching the 2025 season without four of their current starting pitchers just does not seem like a reality.
Starting Rotations Can Never Have Enough Depth
The Milwaukee Brewers know better than many that having numerous pitchers capable of being productive starters is not a bad thing. Last season, Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff each missed significant time with injuries. In their absence, the Brewers had to dip into their farm system. Jason Alexander appeared in 18 games (11 starts) for Milwaukee in their absences, going 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA. In addition to him, Ethan Small, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Matt Bush all made at least one start for the Brewers last season.
Needless to say, having Wade Miley as a bit of an insurance policy in case of injury is a massive improvement in starting rotation depth.